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Driver charged after going around crossing gates, getting hit by train

ELYRIA TWP. — The vehicle of an Oberlin man suspected of using drugs was struck by a train Monday afternoon after witnesses said he drove through railroad crossing gates on West Ridge Road, authorities said.

Jeff Arndt, 22, was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence, refusal of a BAC test, driving under an OVI suspension and failure to obey a railroad crossing signal after the collision, which occurred shortly after 1 p.m.

Jeff Lewis, of Lorain, said he watched the locomotive clip the 1998 Honda Civic, which he said was speeding southbound through the train crossing as it was coming down the tracks. The vehicle was pushed off the tracks and struck the south side crossing gate assembly before coming to rest off the roadway, according to the Elyria post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.

“The crossings were down, the horn was blaring on the train, you could hear it coming, and he just went right across,” Lewis said. “The next thing you saw was just metal and plastic and everything ricochet.”

Lewis said, miraculously, the driver appeared to be OK.

“He was pretty dazed and confused, about the only thing he could say was he wanted to get out of the car and that he was late for work. I informed him, I think he was going to miss the day of work,” he said.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvFcG3nc-Og

Arndt was taken to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center with apparent minor injuries, according to the patrol.

Patrol Sgt. Tim Hoffman said drug use was suspected based on an officer’s observations during an interview with Arndt. Arndt has former convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia, underage consumption and operating a vehicle under the influence, according to court records.

Traffic was halted on both sides of the railroad tracks Monday, as firefighters worked to clean up pieces of the vehicle, which were strewn across the road.

The Norfolk Southern locomotive involved was able to continue on after an inspection, but the road was closed for several hours while repairs were made, according to the patrol.

Chief Photographer Bruce Bishop contributed to this report.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.

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