(Suffolk, Virginia – October 4, 2012)
The as-yet unidentified driver of an 18-wheeler was killed Thursday afternoon at about 2:30 P.M. by a CSX freight train consisting of a single locomotive and four hopper cars filled with crushed rock at the dangerous, unguarded public crossing leading into the O’Malley’s Used Auto Parts & U/C at 1325 Portsmouth Blvd. in Suffolk, VA.
The crossing is listed as public and has heavy tree line blockage of the tracks, but still has only standard, passive railroad crossbuck signs for protecting motorists rather than flashing lights, bells and crossing gates which railroad industry studies say would eliminate around 90% of all railroad crossing crashes.
The tractor, with the driver inside, was carried several hundred feet down the track before the train stopped. The driver died on impact, as the collision was on the driver’s side, and the train carried the wreckage, scattering parts of it along the way, until it came to a stop with the mangled mess that once was a truck tractor impaled upon its snow plow.
“It was inevitable,” witness James Moran told a WVEC-TV Channel 13 news reporter. “There’s no lights. You can, basically, keep up with ‘em (the trains) while you’re driving down the highway (Portsmouth Blvd., which parallels the CSX tracks about a block away). These guys come through here screaming, and you can’t see –you can’t hardly see – the train tracks when you go to cross the road,” he explained, speaking from his own experience.
About approaching and crossing the CSX tracks, Moran added “It’s, basically, you got to creep up (in your vehicle) until you see, and, sometimes, the front of your vehicle’s over the tracks before you even see what’s coming, especially with a tractor trailer.”
The Federal Railroad Administration’s grade crossing inventory says that a half dozen CSX trains travel through that rail corridor daily at a top speed of 40 mph.
Attempts by the news media to contact CSX’s media office Thursday afternoon