(Atkins, Arkansas – May 28, 2012)
A 26-year-old local resident died Monday afternoon about 2:00 P.M. when the 1998 Ford Explorer she was driving was hit by a Union Pacific freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Avenue Four Southeast and UP railroad tracks.
Nicki Settlemire of Atkins, AR was pronounced dead after being transported by Pope County EMS to Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Russellville, AR following the tragedy.
Even though nearly two dozen trains cross the UPRR/Avenue Four intersection daily, authorities obviously see no reason for automatic protection such as flashing lights, gates or bells, depending simply upon passive signage to keep highway vehicles and trains apart. Witnesses say the crossing is obscured by a grove of trees which may have prevented the victim from seeing the approaching train as she pulled off State Highway 64 and turned south onto Avenue Four, immediately crossing the tracks where she was hit by the eastbound train.
The passive signage has not worked well at the crossing, as Monday’s tragedy marked the seventh collision and second fatality to go with two injuries incurred in those seven accidents.
As the Atkins Police Dept. conducted an investigation independent of one being pursued by railroad officials, police refused media requests for information, saying they were too busy with the investigation. Thus, it was left to Pope County Sheriff Aaron Duvall to provide as much information as he could to the inquiring press.