(Cottage Grove, Indiana – April 19, 2014)
The operator of a self-propelled John Deere weed sprayer was seriously injured Saturday morning near Cottage Grove, IN when he drove his farm vehicle over a dangerous and unguarded CSX railroad crossing and was struck by a CSX train.
Randy J. Vogelsang, 50, of Centerville, IN, an employee of the Harvest Land agricultural co-op in Hagerstown, IN, was working on the Jim McMechan farm when the collision occurred at the crossing of a private lane. He was able to get himself out of the wreckage, but complained of severe pain in his chest and rib areas.
Union County Sheriff’s Deputy Alvin Day said the victim was transported to Reid Hospital in Richmond, IN, where he was admitted for treatment of his internal injuries.
Two railroad crossing safety conditions contributed significantly to the serious nature of the accident, among them the lack of any form of active warning devices at the crossing, which do not give any warning to the nine daily trains, including two Amtrak passenger trains, which cross there daily at a top allowable speed of 50 mph according to Federal Railroad Administration documents. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both CSX 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%.
The second condition referred to the crossing’s “private” status, for which FRA regulations do not require the sounding of train horns as such trains approach. The CSX locomotive engineer allegedly said that he blew the train’s horn before the collision, but with no requirement to do so unless an emergency is imminent, there is no telling how far in advance of the collision the horn was blown.
On August 21, 1994, a CSX train struck a vehicle either at that crossing or the adjacent private intersection, resulting in the tragic loss of two lives and the suffering of three non-fatal injuries.