(Bono, Arkansas – July 11, 2017)
An 81-year-old Walnut Ridge, AR man and his 73-year-old wife were both killed Tuesday night when their car was struck by a northbound BNSF Railway freight train. The couple was driving west on Craighead County Road 398 (Paul’s Switch Road) near Bono, AR when the collision occurred as they attempted cross the dangerous, unguarded and previously deadly crossing of BNSF tracks.
Capt. Justin Rolland of the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office identified the couple as Bill Rush and Mary Rush. The location was about 115 miles north of Little Rock, AR.
U.S. Highway 63 closely parallels the BNSF tracks, so closely in fact that there is virtually no storage space for vehicles between the rails and the highway.
On an average day, according to Federal Railroad Administration records, 34 BNSF freight trains cross CR 398 at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision would not have occurred. Both BNSF 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 FRA files, the crossing had already been the site of one fatality and 2 serious injuries in a February 4, 2006 collision between a BNSF freight and a pickup truck, as well as another serious injury in a 1978 pickup truck/train collision.