(LeGrand, California – July 5, 2017)
Two people were airlifted to a Merced County, CA hospital after the car they were in was virtually demolished when struck by an Amtrak passenger train. The train was headed from Bakersfield to Oakland, CA when it struck the car at a dangerous and unguarded private crossing of BNSF railroad tracks near LeGrand, CA at about 4:15 P.M., PDT Wednesday afternoon.
The rural crossing, which is crossed daily by 42 BNSF freight and Amtrak passenger trains at a maximum allowable speed of 79 mph, “does not have arms (crossing gates), but does have stop signs” according to both The Merced Sun-Star and The Los Banos Enterprise. However, studies throughout the years have demonstrated that the highest frequency of crossing collisions occur at those crossings with stop signs.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, the crossing lacked any form of automatic protection, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision would not have occurred. BNSF, Amtrak 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%.
According to Alameda, CA resident James Johnston, 32, who was a passenger on board the train along with his wife, an announcement was made over the train’s intercom after the collision that “We’ve been involved with a trespasser on the track.”
No condition or identification by name, age, gender or place of residence was given by the California Highway Patrol, which investigated the accident.