(Bono, Arkansas – July 20, 2015)
A 51-year-old local resident became the second person to be killed in crashes at the dangerous and unguarded rail/road intersection of Craighead County Road 341 and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks early Monday afternoon at about 2:19 P.M., CDT. The motorist was killed when she attempted to drive her 2002 Ford across the railroad tracks and was hit by a southbound BNSF freight train, one of a daily average of 32 which operate over the crossing at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph according to Federal Railroad Administration records. In the line of sight of the motorist is also a large tree in full summer foliage which could have blocked her view of the oncoming train.
Terry A. Nelson was neither the first fatality suffered nor the first accident to occur at the crossing. As both news media and Google maps reveal, the tree impairs the northbound driver’s line of sight in the direction from which the train came as it approached the crossing. The crossing also lacked any form of active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver 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%.
Two previous crashes resulted in one death and one serious injury to highway users at the BNSF/CR 341 intersection. Reportedly, the stop signs were put in place after the injury accident in 1980, as they are said to be present at the location before the fatal collision, which occurred in 1995, but were not there when a revision was made in August, 2014.
Arkansas State Police Sgt. Philip Van Winkle assisted Craighead County Sheriff’s officers in investigating the tragic death.