(West Point, Indiana – May 22, 2015)
A railroad crossing between Fountain and Tippecanoe Counties just west of West Point, IN became the tragic site of a second car/train collision at about 2:00 P.M. Friday afternoon when two Lafayette, IN residents escaped death but not injury at the crossing of Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks and West Tippecanoe County Line Road.
The dangerous, unguarded – and unlisted – crossing took the life of Rachel Marie Logan, a West Point, IN resident and wife of WPVFD firefighter Michael Logan– who was among those who responded to the tragic scene March 6, when another NS freight train struck Mrs. Logan’s northbound pickup truck. A memorial at the tragic site honors the memory of Mrs. Logan. .
The crossing still lacks any form of active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident and Mrs. Logan’s death would not have happened. Both Norfolk Southern and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
This time, the occupants of the victim vehicle survived –barely and miraculously – as the driver, Fancy Abernathy, 19, and her passenger, Jacob Hornback, 21 – were both rushed to St. Elizabeth Hospital East in Lafayette for treatment of their injuries. Hornback was knocked unconscious. The driver’s father said that “She slowed down to come up (on the slightly elevated railroad crossing) and the guy (Hornback) said ‘Hurry up! There’s a train!’ and she’s already halfway on the tracks and it (the train) caught the back of the van.”
Jamie Abernathy, sister of the driver, said that after the crash her sister, who was still conscious, saw that her passenger was unconscious, and quickly dialed 911 for emergency help.
Residents living near the hazardous intersection, which is crossed daily by 21 NS freight trains at a top allowable speed of 60 mph (if the traffic counts at adjacent crossings can be applied to the unlisted public crossing), say “something has to be done to make the crossing safer.” Ed Anthrop told Indianapolis NBC News Channel 13 WTHR-TV Reporter David MacAnally that the crossing is seriously in need of safety work. “(The trains) come through here pretty fast,” said Anthrop, who lives by the crossing. “Not over-fast, but they come right along. I think they need a set of cross arms or lights. Flashing lights or something like that,” he continued.
The neighbor’s condemnation of the crossing continued as well, as he told Channel 13’s MacAnally that he “hopes the railroad – or somebody – takes care of the thick brush along the tracks, as he says it’s too thick and should be cut back so drivers have more time to see the train coming, especially when (motorists) are approaching from the north.”
Thankfully, two young puppies which were riding in the van escaped relatively unscathed, but were still taken by family members to a veterinarian to be checked out.
Thankful, too, was the driver’s sister, Jamie, who remarked that “She’s doing pretty good, surprisingly. I’m glad God got on her side.”