(Fort Hall, Idaho – July 7, 2020)
One woman was killed and a man and another woman were hospitalized in Pocatello, ID after their car was struck and heavily damaged by a Union Pacific freight train. The tragedy occurred at about 1:20 PM, MDT Tuesday afternoon at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Sheepskin Road, near Highway 91, on the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Reservation in Fort Hall, ID.
Pronounced deceased after being airlifted to the Portneuf Medical Center was Billie Jo Kaiyou, 41. Two other victims, Kayla Yupe, 23, and Cordell Tissidimit, 22, were admitted to the hospital in undisclosed conditions. All three were Fort Hall residents.
According to the railroad-supplied information housed in the Federal Railroad Administration, daily average of four UPRR trains cross the county road. However, the trains are supposed to be limited to 10 MPH, but the prior crossing collision records tell a different story. Tuesday’s tragedy was the eighth collision to occur there, with speed ranges for the trains involved going from the mid-thirty to mid-forty miles per hour on FRA Class 4 track. Kaiyou’s tragic death was the second fatality to occur at the crossing.
Despite the high number of collisions at this crossing, it did not have any active warning lights, such as lights and gates, to provide warning to motorists of an oncoming train. It is virtually certain that lights and gates could have prevented this collision and the eight before it. Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train collisions by as much as 96%.