(Satsuma, Alabama – December 5, 2017)
The tragic death of a 22-year old local female in a collision between her vehicle on East Bayou Avenue and a Norfolk Southern freight train in Satsuma, AL Tuesday afternoon about 1:00 P.M., EST, is causing officials to rethink the city’s rail crossing safety plan.
Wendi Thomas was ejected from her large four-door sedan by the impact of the collision with one of the six NS freight trains which cross East Bayou Avenue daily at a maximum speed of 49 mph at a point where the railroad parallels Highway 41 so closely that large vehicles have a difficult time fitting within the allowable storage space between NS rails and the heavily-traveled state highway.
The tragedy marked the sixth train/motor vehicle accident to occur there and the second fatality suffered. Previous collisions had also produced four non-fatal injuries. Yet, the road/rail intersection is the lone public crossing in Satsuma to be without crossing gates, although it is equipped with flashing lights.
“They need to have one of those cross things, when it comes down on the road,” crash observer Dora Sutton witnessed to WALA-TV, Fox 10 Reporter Elizabeth Rodil. But Satsuma Mayor Tom Williams cited a cost of railroad crossing gates at $300,000, and claimed “It seems to be a matter of money and the railroad has a list of crossings that they feel are very important to have crossing arms and this one was way down on the list.”
Hanna Marie, a teammate of the victim, a graduate of Alma Bryant High School where both were on the archery team, called Thomas “a role model to a lot of us.”