Congressman Mast calls for the brakes to be put on Brightline

A lawmaker is calling for the brakes to be put on Brightline after two fatal incident in the first week of service. (WPEC)

Representative Brian Mast (R-District 18) wants the brakes to be put on Brightline in the wake of two fatal train strikes during the first week of service.

A train struck and killed 51-year-old Jeffrey King of Boynton Beach on Wednesday night. Police said he rode his bicycle around the downed crossing gates as the train approached.

King worked at Tony's BBQ in Boynton Beach.

Last week, a train on a test run hit and killed 32-year-old Melissa Lavell near Boynton Beach Blvd. and NE 6th Ave. Witnesses told police Lavell crossed the tracks after the guardrails went down in an attempt to make it across before the train passed through, according to police.

Brightline launched high-speed train service to the public the very next day.

Mast replied to a tweet from a local newspaper and tagged Brightline in his response.

He said, "stop victim blaming and take responsibility for the fact that your trains are killing people. Trains should stop running until massive safety flaws are resolved."

Mast later issued a statement to CBS12.

“Brightline needs to take responsibility for the fact that their trains are killing people. This is a massive public safety issue, so today I’m calling on Brightline to stop running until Congress has the opportunity to review these serious issues, the Department of Transportation has the time to do a thorough safety review and officials can independently verify that the railway is safe,” Rep. Mast said. “These deaths clearly indicate there are safety issues, and Brightline has a long history of straight up lying to the people of Florida, so at this point they cannot be trusted to decide whether their trains are safe.”

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says he sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to ask her to investigate the two recent train fatalities and explain what's being done to address safety at grade crossings.

A spokesperson for Brightline issued this statement:

The safety of Brightline’s guests and on the railroad is the highest priority for our entire team. The safety systems are designed to prevent and protect people from incidents like those that occurred in recent days. Those systems functioned as intended. Our focus is on expanding our efforts to educate the community about rail safety alongside our partners at Operation Lifesaver, Tri-Rail, local law enforcement, city and county officials.

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