(Corona, California – May 16, 2014)
The tragic death of a 55-year-old cement truck driver at the dangerous, unguarded and partially obscured crossing of BNSF rails and Santa Ana River Road in the Chino Hills section of Corona, CA Friday afternoon at about 12:35 P.M. drew as much anger from delayed and stranded Los Angeles Metrolink passengers as it did sympathy for the victim, who was described as both a safe and conscientious employee and driver by those who knew him.
Michael Cole of Ontario, CA had just exited Green River Road and was proceeding northeast on Santa Ana River Road on the property of the Green River Golf Club when he encountered the triple-tracked BNSF railroad line which carries a daily average of 76 BNSF freight, Amtrak passenger and Metrolink commuter trains daily at a top permissible speed of 60 mph, and was struck by the train. The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office pronounced him dead at the scene.
The grade crossing has no active warning devices such as lights and gates that could have given advance warning of the approaching train. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver 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%.
Given the number of tracks (3) required to be crossed, the existence of curves in both directions of track approaching the crossing and the existence of heavy foliage that partially blocks the motorist’s view of oncoming trains.
In regard to the death of the victim and fellow worker, Robertson’s Ready Mix employee Robert Brown said “My sympathy and prayers are with the driver and the family of the mixer. What a tragic accident. Robertson’s is a big family and we have lost a beloved member.”
Another Robertson’s associate, Scott Cooper, lamented that the tragedy was “very sad, and as a fellow driver I can only hope his family will be taken care of.”
And Robertson’s driver Chris Brooks of Rancho Cucomonga called the event “A sad day in our company”, adding that “This is a good company and we all understand the risks we take everyday before we fire up that mixer truck.”
According to Orange County Spokesperson Jean Pasco, the driver, who worked for Robertson’s Ready Mix, was hauling a load of cement to be used on a pipeline project.