ROYAL OAKS -- A 45-year-old Royal Oaks woman died Sunday afternoon when a freight train struck the Honda Civic she was riding in on a dirt road off San Juan Road, the California Highway Patrol said.

Five people were in the Civic, including three children ages 2, 7 and 12, who suffered minor injuries, Sgt. Carl Churchfield said.

The driver suffered moderate injuries and was flown to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Churchfield said.

A daughter of the woman who died, who stood beside the railroad tracks Sunday evening with a group of onlookers crying and being held by a neighbor, identified her mother as Maria Lopez Vasquez.

Alejandra Lopez said her mother had six children and worked in the strawberry fields. She was born in San Martin, Mexico, Lopez said.

She said her mother, sister and sister's children were heading to the market when the westbound Union Pacific freight train struck the car about 4 p.m.

All lived in a small mobile home park between the railroad tracks and a wooded hillside, at the end of a dirt road between freshly plowed fields. Vasquez had lived there about seven years, her daughter said.

A stop sign and railroad caution sign flank the tracks, which make a sharp curve about 1,000 feet east.

Witnesses told the CHP that the Civic traveled up onto the tracks, which are covered by a cement platform, when the driver hesitated and then put the car in reverse, Churchfield said.


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But it was too

late, and the train clipped the front of the car, which was dragged under the train for more than 100 feet, he said.

He said the conductor and engineer said they were blowing the horn and had pulled the emergency brake.

"She thought she could make it; it's just tragic," he said. "Witnesses said she seemed to be in panic mode."

Two hours later, the badly damaged car was about 150 feet down the tracks and the front of the train had come to a halt about 1,000 feet from the crossing.

Lopez said she didn't hear the train horn, only the sound of a terrible crash.

Lopez and another woman who live there said train operators do not always blow the horn when they pass by.

Follow Sentinel reporter Cathy Kelly on Twitter at Twitter.com/cathykelly9

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