(Vancouver, Washington – September 7, 2014)
Amtrak’s Portland, OR-bound “Empire Builder” with 107 passengers on board emerged from a thick grove of trees and struck and killed a local resident driving a 2014 GMC Yukon SUV as he attempted to cross BNSF Railway tracks at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Southeast Riverwood Court near both IH-205 and the Columbia River at the edge of Vancouver, WA at about 11:00 A.M. PDT Sunday morning.
The deceased was identified as prominent business owner Charles Kellogg, 80, of Ridgefield, WA, who was also a World War II veteran and steadfast supporter of maritime history.
The westbound train, one of about 40 BNSF freights and Amtrak passenger trains which pass over the crossing daily at a maximum speed of 70 mph, may not have sounded its horn as it approached the crossing, which, although named on city maps, is listed as “private”, thereby making use of train horns optional for locomotive engineers as they approach through a heavily-forested corridor on both sides.
Not only is the crossing obscured, especially in the direction from which the train was coming, but there are no crossing gates, bells or flashing lights which, if properly operating, could probably have prevented the tragedy. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver all know 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%