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Dad and Toddler Escape Death at Dangerous, Unguarded Crossing

(West Bath, Maine – January 24, 2014)

They were only on a short trip to check their rural mailbox, but it almost cost a West Bath, ME resident and his two-year-old daughter their lives when the Ford F-150 pickup truck they were in was struck by a Maine Eastern Railroad freight train consisting of a single locomotive hauling two empty rail cars traveling at 25 mph at Sanford Crossing Road Friday morning at about 10:15 A.M.

Daniel Wallace, 36, and his two-year-old daughter, who was properly secured in a child safety seat, were badly shaken by the collision, but otherwise suffered no serious injuries, said that he stopped for the passive signage – which cannot possibly give warning of or protection from an oncoming train — before proceeding to a point which would allow him to see a train but would also place his vehicle, himself and his passenger, in peril.

The railroad that the Maine Eastern operates upon is owned by the Maine Dept. of Transportation, and is operated for both freight and passenger excursion service by the New Jersey-based Morristown & Erie short line railroad management group. Maximum allowable speed for both classes of rail service is 40 mph.

And improved crossing protection – flashing lights, bells and crossing gates – for railroad grade crossings statewide is under the authority of the Maine DOT, doubling the state’s responsibility for safety at highway/rail intersections.

The victim told Bangor Daily News Reporter Beth Brogan that he first stopped at the crossing sign, but because its location was so far from the tracks he had to pull forward to look for a train and never heard a horn sound before the collision.

The collision totaled the 2008 vehicle and allegedly resulted in $2,000 damage to the MERR locomotive.

Even though photographs taken at the scene by news media show a rail sign a considerable distance from the tracks, and the presence of a large mound of snow-covered earth obstructing a clear view of the railroad tracks, the driver was cited for “failure to obey a railroad warning device.”

“The driver and his daughter were very, very lucky,” observed Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dale Hamilton. “It could have been much worse.”