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SPRING, Texas — Three men were killed and another was critically injured Thursday when their van was struck by a train, authorities said.
The crash occurred when the driver of the van disregarded a warning signal and continued across the railroad tracks, said Lt. John Martin of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
The driver was the only occupant of the van to survive and was taken by helicopter to a Houston hospital, where he was in critical condition Thursday night.
Harris County Deputy Jeremy Thomas said the 25-year-old driver will be charged with three counts of manslaughter. The driver steered around a crossing arm to beat the train, authorities said.
"This is about as reckless as you get," Thomas said in Friday editions of the Houston Chronicle. "In an accident like this, with the recklessness of his actions, this is the most appropriate charge."
The van's driver apparently followed another car that also ignored the signal.
"Apparently whoever was driving the van thought it was safe to continue across the tracks," Martin told The Associated Press. "They just followed the car and then got hit by the train."
The victims were all Hispanic males in their mid-20s, Martin said.
There were no reports of injuries on the Union Pacific train, which was hauling freight.
"The train could not stop in time and struck the vehicle," Union Pacific spokesman Joe Arbona told the Chronicle. "It can take a half-a.m.ile to stop on time — the trains can't stop on a dime. People should never try to go around a gate and never try to beat a train."
The crash occurred in an area known as Old Town Spring, a historic shopping district in Spring, a suburb north of Houston.