(Dakota City, Nebraska – September 13, 2012)
The driver of an empty dump truck, unaware of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train coming toward him at an acute angle that made the train nearly impossible to see, tried to cross the dangerous, unguarded Pine Street intersection with BNSF railroad tracks at about 1:15 P.M. Thursday afternoon in Dakota City, NE, only to be struck and painfully injured by the train.
Xavier Hernandez, thought to be in his 50’s, of South Sioux City, NE, said he neither heard nor saw the oncoming train, one of about a dozen which cross Pine Street daily at a top speed of 49 mph, until the train hit the rear passenger side portion of the truck he was driving for Anderson Hauling of Dakota City, spinning it 180 degrees off the crossing and leaving it trackside, heavily damaged, and Hernandez with serious head injuries. The victim was rushed to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa, where he was admitted in fair condition.
The crossing, even with its extremely difficult, acute angular approach by the railroad tracks on the southwest side, is also obscured by a line of large, dense trees on the northwest quadrant, making trains coming from the north nearly impossible to see by drivers approaching eastbound, as Hernandez was. Yet, the Pine Street/BNSF crossing is “protected” only with standard, passive railroad crossbuck sings, lacking any form of active crossing protection such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates, the existence of which railroad sources say would prevent 90% of all collisions between trains and highway vehicles.
Dakota County, NE Sheriff’s Deputy Penny Kleinberg said that “As you know, there are not always signals (at railroad crossings). There is some sort of sign. Just be aware of your surroundings and make sure you stay safe.”