(Post Falls, Idaho – November 21, 2012)
A local motorist was hospitalized in serious condition after his 2002 Subaru was struck by a westbound Union Pacific freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of West Grange Avenue and UPRR tracks. After the collision, he was then dragged several hundred yards to the next crossing west of the collision point.
John Cheatham, 39, was taken by ambulance to Kootenai Medical Center in Post Falls with undisclosed injuries after the train took him and his vehicle from the Grange Avenue crossing, which has only the “Idaho Shield” passive railroad crossbucks for “protection”, to the North Chase Avenue crossing, which does have flashing lights, but no gates. But the point of the collision was at the unsignalized crossing, which has no active protection such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates, items railroads say could eliminate at least 90% o all grade crossing accidents.
So confused were both he Idaho State Police, who responded to the collision, as well as the news media, that reports listed the accident site as a protected crossing, instead of the crossing where the train and the car, impaled upon the locomotive’s snowplow, finally stopped.
The approach for westbound trains at West Grange is at an acute, 30 degree angle, which hampers the view for drivers of the approaching train on the passenger side of vehicles. An average of eight trains daily cross the intersection at a top speed of 40 mph.