(Athens, Alabama – May 9, 2019)
A 33-year-old resident of Athens, AL was struck and killed by a northbound CSX freight train at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Laughmiller Road just two miles south of Athens in Limestone County Thursday morning at 6:45 AM, EDT.
Athens News-Courier Reporter Jean Cole referred to the deadly crossing as “unlighted.” The grade crossing where Luis Sanchez Cruz died was not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. According to FRA-kept records, 20 CSX trains cross there at maximum speeds of 60 mph on an average day.
It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with active warning devices, such as lights and gates, this collision would not have occurred. Both CSX and Operation Lifesaver all 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 accidents by as much as 96%.
While a CSX spokeswoman said the train was bound for Birmingham having departed from Nashville, Limestone County Coroner Mike West described the victim’s auto as having been “T-boned”.
The tragedy was the first recorded accident to occur at the dangerous and unguarded intersection.