(Cove, Arkansas – February 15, 2014)
A 75-year-old local man was killed Saturday morning at about 10:50 A.M. when his westbound 2005 GMC pickup truck was struck by a northbound Kansas City Southern freight train at the non-gated crossing of East Barton Avenue and KCS tracks in the Polk County, AR community of Cove.
Claude R. Franks, Jr. was pronounced dead by Polk County Coroner Brian Bowser after the collision, which occurred at a crossing where the westbound motorist has a hampered view of trains approaching from the south due to structures and large vehicular storage areas near the tracks in the southeast quadrant.
Although the crossing is equipped with standard mast-mounted flashing lights, there are no crossing gates to help prevent tragedies such as occurred Saturday morning. It is virtually certain that the combination of lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both Kansas City Southern Railroad and Operation Lifesaver know 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%.
According to Federal Railroad Administration records, a daily average of 22 trains cross the KCS/East Barton Ave. intersection at a top allowable speed of 40 mph. There has been one previous, non-fatal accident at the crossing.
The tragedy was investigated by Arkansas State Police Corporal Mike Thomas.