(Fort Morgan, Colorado – February 17, 2013)
A 49-year-old Fort Morgan, CO man suffered serious injuries Sunday afternoon at about 2:37 P.M. when he and his pickup truck were struck by a westbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train just east of Fort Morgan at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of County Road 22 and BNSF railroad tracks.
Larry Elliott Jr. was ejected from his truck upon an impact which tore the truck bed off the frame, and very nearly did the same thing to the pickup’s cab. The train hit Elliott’s northbound truck on the passenger side almost directly between the extended cab and the truck bed, tossing the wreckage to the side of the tracks.
The victim was flown by helicopter to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, CO, where he was listed as being in fair condition Monday.
Despite this BNSF crossing on County Road 22 being unguarded, railroad officials suggest that the crossing is “protected” by a crossbuck sign and highway stop signs. These passive warning signs merely inform the public as to the location of the railroad track which lays vacant 99% of the time. These passive signs do nothing to warn of an approaching train once one does come along. Contrary to the opinion of the railroad industry that sees no problem with the continued existence of unguarded public crossings, the National Transportation Safety Board has known at least as far back as 1987 that “motorists should consider grade crossings with passive signing as extremely hazardous locations.” The addition of lights and gates to crossings like this has been proven to prevent over 90% of these tragic accidents such as just occurred on Sunday.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, a daily average of 32 trains, including Amtrak passenger operations, cross County Road 22 at speeds as high as 79 mph. This crossing has experienced one earlier accident, a fatality in 1990. Until this dangerous, unguarded crossing is closed or upgraded to include flashing lights and gates, every person who attempts to cross the BNSF tracks at County Road 22 will be over ten times more likely to be hit by a train than those who are fortunate enough to be traveling over similar crossings that have lights and gates.