Police said 42-year-old Lynette Renee Fowler, of Fuquay-Varina, was killed. She was the only occupant of the vehicle that was struck by the train.
"For some reason, we glanced a little too late, and we couldn't get to her," said witness Erskin Walker. "We tried to get down but, if you saw what we saw, there wasn't much we could do."
Video from Chopper 11 HD showed an Amtrak train near the scene of a crumpled SUV, which came to rest against the side of a building owned by Cargill.
Company officials said there were flammable materials near the area where the SUV struck the building, but those materials were not compromised.
Amtrak said the train involved was the Carolinian, which was traveling from New York to Charlotte with 168 people on board. It was traveling at 60 mph at the time of the crash.
No one was injured on the train. It resumed its route to Charlotte around 8 p.m.
Police said the crossing arms and warning lights were working properly.