(Chelsea, Alabama – July 25, 2016)
A 39-year old local resident lost her life last Monday morning at about 1:45 A.M., EDT at the crossing of Chelsea Road/County Road 39 and CSX railroad tracks. The victims 2009 Lexus was struck and virtually destroyed by one of 21 daily CSX freight trains that cross there at a maximum allowable speed of 40 mph.
Bernadette Shires was rushed to Grandview Hospital, but passed away enroute and was pronounced dead on arrival at the trauma center.
The logistics of the tragedy could not have been clearer to railroad crossing safety officials, as the Chelsea Road/CSX intersection lies almost directly in front of City Hall and has now been the location of 10 collisions between trains and highway vehicles. The crossing is on a relatively tight curve on the CSX right-of-way, probably the reason for the slower train speeds allowed, is at the intersection of two main city roads, also on curves, and is heavily used by school buses every day schools are in session. The crossing is well-humped (low ground clearance), and heavily enshrouded by trees, brush and structures for motorists to be able to see trains in both directions.
Even more damning was that Monday’s tragedy, even though the first fatality to occur there, came on the heels of two recent accidents, one this past January 7, and an earlier one on October 13 of last fall. Yet, there were no gates, which add a positive barrier between vehicles and the crossing. Studies have shown that the addition of gates to flashing light only crossings reduce accidents by two-thirds.
Capt. Hartley went on to tell the TV reporter that the intersection “is very heavily traveled,” and “that is an active railroad crossing.” Part of the Captain’s closing statement to Reporter Rhinehart said it all by indicating “this was a tragic event that occurred and we don’t want any more tragedies to occur there.”
The victim leaves her loving husband, Richard, and the couples’ three children: Matthew, Madison and McKinley. Funeral services are Thursday at the Currie-Jefferson Funeral Home.