Railroad News

Dangerous, Unguarded NS Crossing Claims the Life of an Indiana Community Icon

(Ramsey, Indiana – April 23, 2013)

The only thing Kenneth Allen Downey, a 54-year-old employee of the Ramsey Water Company, didn’t do was see or hear the Norfolk Southern train that killed the utility worker, Tuesday afternoon at about 2:00 P.M. as he first stopped and then proceeded across the Crosby Road/NS Railway crossing in Ramsey, IN. Mr. Downey was described by those who knew him as “a devoted father, husband and a Christian man.”

Mr. Downey was “on a routine work route and didn’t see the train coming,” said police officials investigating the tragedy where the community leader and regular charitable cause volunteer was pronounced dead at the scene, which was directly across and fully visible from North Harrison High School. The Ramsey Water Company utility truck he was driving received massive damage on the driver’s side.

Eric Yates, who had known and volunteered in Boy Scouts of America work alongside Downey for the past 15 years, called the victim’s death “a loss for the entire community,” and added that, because of his physical size, he “was our Santa Claus every year” for community events in Corydon, IN.

As Yates chronicled the activities and events Downey was principal in giving assistance, he concluded that “Any community event, he was always the first one to be there.”

The crossing of Crosby Road and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks has no active protective systems such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates (systems which railroads have long claimed could prevent more that 90% of accidents such as took Ken Downey’s life Tuesday), rather being “protected” solely by two standard, passive railroad crossbuck and highway “stop” signs even with its proximity to the high school and hundreds of students forced to cross there daily. There are also 19 NS freight trains which cross there daily at top allowable speeds of 60 mph, making “passive” protection almost a bad joke. Yet, Indiana State Police troopers who investigated the accident said “that’s common in a rural community like Ramsey.”

ISP Trooper Chris Tucker told Louisville TV station WLKY that “Based upon witness statements, the driver stopped at the stop sign, completely stopped, looked both ways and proceeded out on the track. It is believed the driver did not see the train coming. That’s what we were told. The train was using its horns. Its bells and whistles were all working properly. So it’s believed that he did not see the train.”

The tragedy was the fourth accident at the crossing since the establishment of Federal Railroad Administration record keeping in the early 1970’s, but was the first fatality suffered there. The previous three accidents had injured a total of four people.

Funeral arrangements are still in process for Downey, who was an active member of Corydon’s First Capitol Christian Church.