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By Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly
A woman was killed on the Caltrain tracks Friday afternoon when the car she was driving was struck by a train shortly after 5 p.m. at the Charleston Road crossing.
The driver, a woman in her 60s from Indiana, was heading eastbound on Charleston when her Nissan Altima was struck by a northbound Express train, Caltrain spokesman Mark Simon said.
Caltrain service was suspended in both directions just after 5 p.m. Caltrain was working with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority late Friday afternoon to provide a "bus bridge" between the San Antonio station in Mountain View and the California Avenue station in Palo Alto.
Rescue trains were also deployed to carry passengers whose regular train service was suspended. Caltrain officials expected delays of up to 90 minutes.
The train came to a halt after the collision near East Meadow Drive, Caltrain spokesperson Tasha Bartholomew said. The woman and her husband were both in the car. The husband, who is also in his 60s and who was sitting in the passenger seat, exited the car and appeared physically unharmed.
"We think he got out just in time," Simon said.
Simon said the victim and her husband were visiting family in Palo Alto.
Simon said the car was crossing the tracks during peak traffic. It appeared to get stuck behind the backed-up traffic and remained on the tracks when Train #369 struck. He said the northbound Express train was on its way from Mountain View and was rolling at full speed -- 79 mph -- when the collision occurred.
Caltrain officials said there were between 300 and 400 passengers on the train. None appeared to be injured, Simon said.
Palo Alto and transit police, firefighters and paramedics arrived at the scene immediately after the crash and closed Charleston Road to traffic near the train tracks.
The struck car remained near the tracks more than an hour after the crash, its front end completely mangled.
Deanna Slocum, who lives near the crash scene, said she saw the train traveling at full speed and then heard a loud crash. She immediately knew the train had hit a car.
"I heard the sound of brakes as the train was trying to slow down and then I heard screams," Slocum said.
The driver was pronounced dead at the scene, Simon said. The coroner arrived about an hour after the crash as residents and passersby stood outside the caution tape and looked on.