(Brompton, Alabama – October 15, 2015)
A large group of Brompton, AL rural neighborhood residents gathered together last Monday to both formulate a plan of action and to launch an active campaign aimed at both government agencies and railroad companies in relation to the tragic death on October 7 of a 30-year-old mother of four who followed other motorists allegedly waved around long-lowered railroad crossing gates occupied by a standing Norfolk Southern freight train. Her pickup truck was hit by Amtrak’s speeding Southern Crescent passenger train which was hidden from her view by the stationary freight.
The local residents gathered and united in sharing their grief over the loss of a member of the community, Andeldez Guadalupe Dasquez-Lugo. “This (the purpose of the meeting) is not to come and complain about who’s at fault,” said spokesperson and resident Sherri Wray to the assembly estimated to exceed 50 souls October 12. “It (the tragedy) can’t be changed, but we can change what happens from this point forward. And, we can ask for help,” Wray proposed.
The assembled residents all live in the areas accessed from only by Dragline Road and Trail’s End Road, which have an estimated combined population of 300, and are frequently and regularly held hostage away from or inside their neighborhoods by trains which stop in the siding of the main line track for periods of hours as they await passing trains and continually activate the lights and gates that are not equipped with paraphernalia that would allow them to “time out” and raise if no trains other than the stationary one are in the vicinity.
“We have set up these ‘train meets’ to give plenty of time for one train to enter a siding before the other train arrives,” Norfolk Southern Public Relations Director Susan Terpay told News-Aegis Editor Jeff Thompson in an e-mailed statement. “We try not to block residents’ access to crossings. In this case, the gate was down, indicating traffic should not proceed across the tracks,” Terpay added.
But residents say those periods of blockage run into hours, and Ms. Wray asked the group to raise their hands if any had been disciplined for being late to work or missed doctors’ appointments or been otherwise seriously inconvenienced by being blocked in or out by the lowered gates. Nearly all hands went up in a display of unanimity of inconvenience!
“We need an alternative route,” said the effort’s FaceBook page, which also showed photos of a standing train only 20 feet from the crossing with gates lowered, triggered by the standing train. In addition, people present at the gathering displayed a photo of an ambulance waiting and unable to cross due to a stationary train, and another resident, Aline Spurgeon, said her home burned to the ground when firefighters were blocked from responding to her emergency by a similar standing train/too long-lowered gate scenario.
And as railroad and law enforcement authorities slowly continued to gather information on the tragedy, the Federal Railroad Administration issued an announcement that it, too, had initiated an investigation into the tragedy and its precedence as well as its subsequent situation.
But in the meantime, the residents affected wait and wonder. “We have a problem. Please pay attention to us,” implored Wray in paraphrasing the beleaguered community’s unresolved enigma.