OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Police have identified the three victims killed in a train crash Tuesday afternoon.
Ashley Morgan Melson, 20, Justin Mastin, 19, and Joshua Cartwright, 21, all from Kalamazoo were killed in the crash, according to a release from Michigan State Police.
Family members say Melson and Mastin were boyfriend and girlfriend. They had been dating for more than a year, according to their Facebook profiles.
“It’s a blessing that they went together, because they’re still going to carry their love on forever,” said Britny Boothe, Melson’s stepsister. “It’s really tearing me up right now.”
“They were definitely meant for each other. They had their whole life planned out,” said Alyssa Lovely, Mastin’s cousin.
She was also friends with Melson and is the mother of Cartwright’s 4-year-old son.
The train crash happened Tuesday afternoon at the railroad crossing near 11th Street and W KL Avenue in Oshtemo Township near Kalamazoo.
Witnesses and investigators say Cartwright was traveling northbound on 11th Street when he drove around two vehicles in front of him that were stopped for the train crossing signals. The minivan was hit by the Amtrak train and pushed down the tracks for about a mile before the train stopped.
“She was the kind that no matter what kind of day you were having, all she had to do was just say one word — not even that — just smile and your whole day was turned around,” Lovely said of Melson.
“My sister was a very loving person and she had the best heart in the world,” Boothe said. “She would do anything for anybody.”
“He was always up for an adventure, always ready to go, always on his toes,” Charles Salter said of his friend Mastin.
Family members have started a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for Melson’s funeral.
“It’s just hard to believe that my baby brother is gone,” Lydia Bowman, Cartwright’s sister, told 24 Hour News 8.
She said her family is uncertain how they will pay for funeral costs.
“My mom is trying her hardest,” Bowman said. “She is on disability, so she has no money.”
The crash investigation continued Wednesday as questions remain about why Cartwright pulled onto the tracks before the train barreled through. Michigan State Police investigators said autopsies would be performed to determine whether or not drugs or alcohol were factors. Because everyone in the van was killed, investigators say it’s likely they will never know exactly what happened and why.
“I don’t know what was going through their minds,” Boothe said. “Amtrak trains do not last long… They could have sat there and waited.”
Lovely also didn’t know why Cartwright would try to beat the train, but she did said he was “the most impatient person you will ever meet in your life.”
“He didn’t like to wait,” she said. “I don’t know if they didn’t see the train coming or what was up, but they crossed that bar and it was wrong place at the wrong time.”
Tuesday, emergency personnel were on scene for more than four hours working to free the the occupants of the van and removing it from the tracks in blizzard-like conditions.
The train was carrying around 120 passengers at the time of the wreck. None of them were injured. Wednesday, an Amtrak worker repaired minor damage to the crossing gate — a blinking light busted by debris.
Officials with the Oshtemo Fire Department, Michigan Sate Police and the Kalamazoo County Road Commission told 24 Hour News 8’s they couldn’t recall ever receiving any complaints about the 11th Street train crossing.