(Wabash, Indiana – November 1, 2012)
The death of a 63-year-old local resident at the non-gated crossing of Fisher Street and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks in Wabash, IN late Thursday morning at about 11:30 A.M. has ignited considerable concern regarding the perceived safety of the elevated, deteriorating road surface crossing.
Luther Steele, Jr. was traveling northbound on Fisher Street when he collided with the NS freight train, which was operating at 38 mph at the time of the collision. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by the Wabash County Coroner.
The Fisher Street/NS crossing accommodates an average of 35 trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, whose records also indicate that Thursday’s tragedy was neither the first accident nor the first death at the crossing. It has now been the site of three accidents resulting in a pair of fatalities. The crossing is equipped with bells and standard mast-mounted flashing lights, which were allegedly operating at the time of the tragedy.
But Wabash police contend that the addition of gates to the crossing would be “a safety precaution that possibly could have prevented the crash.”
“When they don’t have the crossing arms that come down, people will look and think they can beat the train across,” explained Wabash Police Dept. Officer Gregory Music. “I would recommend that they were on every (railroad/roadway) intersection.”
An interested observer, Timothy Butts, who lives right next to the fatal crossing, agrees with Officer Music that the crossing gates are necessary for safer railroad intersections. “I think there should be crossing arms wherever there’s traffic in town. When you have 13 crossings in a city of about 16,000 people, it would probably be a good idea.”