(Elmira, Idaho – August 25, 2015)
A 67-year-old driver of a pickup truck became the first fatality at a dangerous and unguarded Union Pacific Railroad crossing Tuesday afternoon at about 5:20 P.M., MDT, after his westbound vehicle was struck by a northbound Union Pacific freight train, one of 8 UP freight trains that cross Elmira Road via UPRR tracks in Elmira, Bonner County, ID at speeds as high as 40 mph.
James R. Lee of Auburn, CA was critically injured when his eastbound 2002 Ford pickup was crushed by the train. The victim was flown to Kootenai Health Trauma Center in Coeur d’Alene, ID, where he later died from his massive injuries.
The collision that took Lee’s life was the third accident and first fatality suffered at the crossing, where there are no active warning devices, such as lights and gates to warn motorists of an approaching train. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident one would not have happened. Both Union Pacific 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%.
Idaho State Police were investigating Tuesday’s tragedy.