(Jemison, Alabama – July 31, 2014)
A legally deaf Alabama man succumbed Thursday from injuries he had suffered Tuesday morning, July 29 at about 7:30 A.M., EDT when his 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier was struck by a CSX freight train at the dangerous and unguarded grade crossing of CSX railroad tracks and Guy Street in Jemison, AL.
Charles Conrad Armbrust III, 45, of Jemison was likely on his way to work as a special assistant at Easterling’s Produce when he encountered the southbound train that he doubtfully ever heard at the crossing, which has neither crossing gates nor flashing lights – warnings the victim could easily have seen – to give motorists notice of the approach of one of the 17 daily trains that cross there at a top allowable speed of 50 mph.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident could have been prevented. Both CSX and Operation Lifesaver know 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 accidents by as much as 96%
Armbrust, who was best known by his nickname, Buster, was airlifted by helicopter to the UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL, where he was admitted in critical condition and passed away from his injuries two days later.
According to Federal Railroad Administration records, Armbrust’s death was the first fatality, but not the first accident, to occur at the crossing.
“I think a lot of people thought because Buster was deaf and couldn’t communicate with others that he wasn’t very smart,” Christine Caton, whose mother had served as Armbrust’s legal guardian in his teen years, told a writer for the Clanton Advertiser. “He was very smart. He was not only smart but loving, and a lot of people in this community are going to truly miss him.”