FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – With the opening of Christmas Tree lane each year we are reminded that this annual festivity began as a memorial.

But a hundred years after its tragic beginning, another tragedy struck on December 1, 2020. On that night, the Solorio family was celebrating their annual tradition of seeing the lights on Christmas Tree Lane.

They were in their minivan, stopped on the train tracks behind dozens of cars lined up when a train came through and crashed into the van. Five-year-old Anton Solorio was killed in the cash.

CBS47 has learned exclusively that the Solorio family is suing the City of Fresno, Fresno County, Fig Garden Home Owners Association, BNSF Railway Company, and National Railroad Passenger Corporation.

“It cannot happen again, it should not happen again and hopefully as a result of what happened here, it will never happen again,” said attorney Paul Kiesel who represents the Solorio family.

Each December, millions of lights blanket Christmas Tree Lane as the community celebrates the most wonderful time of the year.

The lane, which started in 1920, began to honor a child who passed. Since then, it has grown to be one of Fresno’s most popular holiday traditions with thousands coming out each year to experience the world-famous display.

However, the long line of cars filled with families waiting to see lights continue to raise safety concerns.

A CBS47 investigation found there have been three accidents near or on Christmas Tree Lane since 2019.

“I kind of glanced to my right and saw the big light,” said Madison Stubbs. “I yelled at him to go, he stepped on it and we went and it caught the back of our car.”

In 2019, Stubbs, her fiance Chris, and their seven-month-old son were in their car waiting in line on Shields when the car was hit by a train. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The following year there was another crash on the track. This time a young boy lost his life.

“All I could hear was screams,” said Charlie Orta who lives on Shields. “I just knew that a life was lost before I even came out the front door. I could tell by the way it sounded.”

Orta said he will never forget December 1, 2020. The night an Amtrak train crashed into this white minivan killing Anton Solorio who was in the back seat.

“The back end of that vehicle had been pretty much crushed and spun around right at the tracks, ” said Orta. “I went over to see if I could help. I just prayed for the lady and I watched her holding that baby and asking for help.”

The mother was pregnant at the time and sent to the hospital. Now the Solorio family alleges the crash shouldn’t have happened.

Kiesel alleges in the lawsuit that Fresno Police did not have officers on traffic control that night and should have.

“You have opening night and there is nothing,” said Kiesel. “There is an absence of law enforcement. There is an absence of any signage. There is nothing but a long line of cars and nothing else. That is the sad this, this could have been easily prevented.

We reached out to the police department and declined an interview.

Two years ago right after the crash, Deputy Chief Michael Reid told our station that the back end of the Solorio van was still on the tracks and there was an escape route for the driver to avoid the train.

“There was a lane open and a driveway that could have been avoided,” said Reid. “That is why we honestly think she thought she had cleared the tracks and had enough room. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true.”

After the crash, people who live on Shields called on the city to add speed monitors, and extra crossing arms at the tracks.

Councilmembers Esmerelda Soria and Nelson Esparza worked with public works and did get warning signs up to stop people from parking on the tracks.

Last year, there was no crash on the tracks – but a California Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer was hurt when he was hit by a truck while patrolling the lane. The officer has since recovered.

There are no walk nights in 2022. Officials remind people who want to experience the magic of Christmas Tree Lane to expect traffic, follow all rules of the road, watch their speed, and never park on the railroad tracks.

We reached out to everyone named in the suit including the city, county, and homeowners association and all of them declined to comment because of ongoing litigation. This is a civil suit and right now the jury trial is set for March 2024.