(Merced County, California – October 13, 2011)
Law enforcement authorities directing traffic through the scene of a vehicular accident in Merced County, CA Thursday morning erroneously directed a 54-year-old grandmother into the path of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train which hit and heavily damaged her BMW sedan. On her way to take her daughter’s dog to a veterinary appointment, Angie Machado of Chowchilla, CA came upon the traffic accident at the intersection of Arboledo and Highway 140, where officers were directing heavy traffic around the wreck scene. Machado said she was being waved across the BNSF tracks when a train came into view.
“As soon as I got over the rail tracks, he (the officer) put his hand up and stopped us,” she recalled. “And the train guard started coming down, and I had a car in front of me so all I could do was go backwards.” “I prayed that I was far enough back, and I was because it (the BNSF freight train) took out the whole front end.”
Both Machado and her daughter’s sick dog survived the collision physically unscathed, but her BMW was virtually totaled. She and other witnesses at the scene questioned the safety of the intersection, which has a stop sign at the Highway 40 (which parallels BNSF tracks) and Arboledo intersection and is barely a car length beyond the tracks.
The crossing has a “humped crossing” warning sign for trucks, but no admonition for motorists to refrain from stopping on the tracks when in line for the stop sign to cross Highway 140. Yet, California Highway Patrol authorities claim the crossing is clearly marked.