(Trinidad, Colorado – June 28, 2016)
The crossing of Las Animas County Road 75.1, which killed five members of a religious, hard-working family Sunday morning at about 9:45 A.M., MDT was in a long, drawn-out process of being equipped with crossing gates and flashing lights.
The crossing of County Road 75.1 and BNSF rails had only silent, passive railroad cross-buck signs to “warn” the family, which included Abigail, 6, Heidi, 4, Kathryn, 2, and Ellianna, 8 months, of the rapid approach of the train. Only Heidi, who is in stable condition at Denver’s Children’s Hospital with a broken arm and leg as well as a multiple of other fractures and trauma, survived the carnage.
But the true tragedy was that the paperwork intended to continue a process initiated first in 2013 to upgrade the deadly and unguarded crossing would have undoubtedly prevented the horrific tragedy. The paperwork had just been signed two weeks ago by the Las Animas County Commission and was passed along to the Colorado State Public Utilities Commission for their approval of the estimated $230,000 project. The Colorado DOT confirmed to Reporter Mekialaya White of KRDO-TV News that, according to CDOT’s Amy Ford, the area is “prone to accidents” and that the project would “add flashers, gates and a constant warning system at the crossing.”
Meanwhile, the CR 75.1/BNSF crossing’s collision record, when Sunday’s statistics are added, makes it one of Colorado’s most dangerous crossings. The five deaths and one injury suffered Sunday morning were in addition to five previous collisions which resulted in 3 additional non-fatal injuries as well as a death which occurred July 16, 2010. In the most recent crash, two travelers on the highway were seriously injured in a collision with a BNSF freight train on October 24, 2010. Four of the six collisions have involved Amtrak trains.
KRDO’s White said that “CDOT works on a dozen similar projects around the state per year, which rank in priority using factors like accidents and traffic volume through crossings.”