Fatal choice at train tracks saddens friends of Auburndale man

Photo: Courtesy Eric Robinson / Witnesses and police can only come up with one reason 44-year-old Verne Davis would pass stopped cars and drive around a guard meant to warn that a train was coming.

LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) – Friends and family of an Auburndale man are trying to understand a choice that turned deadly for their loved one.  An Amtrak train struck a car that went past the guard rails Monday evening and the driver died at the scene.  Witnesses tell police the lights were flashing and the arm was down.  But a parked locomotive on the opposite side may have made Verne Davis believe it wasn’t a true warning.

“It wasn’t moving and I think he at that point got a little impatient,” Auburndale Deputy Police Chief Andy Ray said.

Witnesses and police can only come up with one reason 44-year-old Verne Davis would pass stopped cars and drive around a guard meant to warn that a train was coming. “There was a freight locomotive and a couple of freight cars on the side track waiting on the train to come through,” Ray said.

Davis must have thought a parked train on in the opposite direction on a side track gave a false alarm to activate the warnings, Ray assumed. But in fact it was the real deal— because a passenger train was traveling from the opposite direction.

Eric Robinson is one of many heartbroken by Davis’ death. “A great man, a great friend, a great father,” Robinson said Tuesday. The two have been friends since youth football– and never let life get in the way of their friendship. “I don’t really understand it- don’t know what he was in a hurry for,” Robinson said.

The fact this was preventable carries its own share of pain.  “I think a lot of folks have taken that chance before,” Robinson said. But Robinson and police hope, if anything, this tragedy serves as a wake-up call to others who bypass the warnings. “We live in a very fast-paced world and we want it now and need it now and a lot of times that causes us to throw caution to the wind, but this is one of those places where you can’t afford to do that,” Ray said.

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