(Cawood, Kentucky – June 30, 2013)
A 44-year-old father and his nine-year-old son were airlifted to different hospitals after their 2011 Nissan Frontier pickup truck was struck on the driver’s side by a freight train as it crossed CSX railroad tracks at the Adler Lane grade crossing in Cawood, KY Sunday morning at about 10:30 A.M.
Both Rodney Bolin of Evarts, KY and his son, Braxton, who lives with his mother and step-father in Cawood, KY, where he is a student at Cawood Elementary School, had to be extricated from the truck through the passenger side after the heavily damaged vehicle was flung into a water-filled ditch away from CSX tracks. The father was flown to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, TN, while the nine-year-old was taken by helicopter to the Johnson City Hospital in Johnson City, TN. Both were admitted in critical condition for treatment of serious injuries.
Area residents, including public safety officials, indicated the dangerous, unguarded Adler Lane/CSX railroad crossing was basically an accident awaiting a victim. Harlan County Rescue Squad Captain Chris Allen was one who questioned the crossing’s safety. “It was a private road. They have no signals or markings on it.”
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%.
Van Allen Hensley, who lives just up the hill from the crossing, said he was just returning home from church when he came upon the accident scene. Hensley agreed that the lack of signals or markings represents a serious safety concern. “What was going through my mind?” reflected Hensley. “I was worried about the passenger – the little boy,” he said. He added that train engineers do not blow the locomotive whistles as they emerge from a tunnel that is part of the approach to the crossing. A daily average of three trains cross there at a maximum allowable speed of 35 mph.
Investigation into the accident is being led by the Kentucky State Police.