Female arrested for DUI after car struck by train

Driver treated at hospital for minor injuries

October 16, 2016 - by Lt. Bob Vander Yacht

​Bellingham (WA) At about 3:15 this morning officers responded to a vehicle versus train crash.  This occurred on Central Street (between Roeder Street and W. Holly Street).  The involved vehicle was struck by a southbound train and pushed several feet down the tracks before the train could come to a full stop. 

Officers located one witness and also interviewed the train engineer.  The accounts of both are that the involved car appeared to be high centered on the tracks near Central Street prior to the approach of the train.  The engineer could see the taillights of the vehicle ahead on the tracks and immediately activated the train brakes.  He also gave multiple horn warnings as the distance closed between the train and car.  Just as impact was about to occur the car surged slightly forward which actually squared it up to the front of the train and the impact was directly to the driver's side of the car, a yellow 2005 Toyota Scion.

When officers arrived the lone occupant of the vehicle was unresponsive and was bleeding from an injury to her head.  Officers noted a strong odor of intoxicants emanating from the passenger compartment of the damaged vehicle.  The first priority in this type of scenario is to care for the injured person.  The female was transported to PeaceHealth St. Joseph's Medical Center where a specially trained Bellingham Police Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) continued to investigate whether this driver had been operating the motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

As a result of this investigation there is probable cause to arrest 31 year old Sandra V. Mendez Rivera, a Bellingham resident, for DUI.  Her driver's license status is suspended so she is also being cited for DWLS/R 3rd degree.

The Toyota Scion is registered to a Yakima resident.                                                                                                       

Bellingham Police Traffic Officers were called out to complete the crash investigation as they have specific training related to complex crashes.

Thankfully it appears that Ms. Mendez Rivera has only sustained minor injuries from this crash.  The tracks were cleared at about 8 a.m. and Burlington Northern Railway officials are verifying that the tracks are safe to resume normal activity. 

Attached is a photo of the scene.

train v car.jpg

Media Contact

​Lieutenant Bob Vander Yacht
Public Information Officer

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