(Dexter, Missouri – September 2, 2016)
A horrible collision between a Union Pacific Railroad freight train and a car carrying three adults and two children, both under the age of two, resulted in death for both children, the driver and one of her adult passengers. The collision occurred at about 1:30 P.M., CDT Friday afternoon at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Union Pacific tracks and Stoddard County Road 732, just off the railroad-paralleling Missouri Highway 25, about a mile south of Dexter, MO.
The crossing has a notorious history. Friday’s tragedy, which killed driver Maureen Peters, 19, of Dexter, Hailey Laws, 20, of Bloomfield, MO, and two children, who included Weston L. Crider, 1, of Bloomfield, was the fourth train/highway vehicle collision to occur at that road/rail intersection. This collision was the first fatal accident and the third to cause bodily injury.
Sadly, there have now been four fatalities and four serious injuries at the crossing, yet it lacks any form of active warning devices, such as lights at gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Both Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver know that 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 tragedy’s sole survivor, Vidalia Mace, 20, also of Bloomfield, was airlifted to St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau, where she was admitted in serious condition. Infant Bryson M. Umfleet, of Dexter, was taken from the crash scene still alive to Twin Rivers Medical Center in Kennett, MO, but was pronounced dead there at 4:40 P.M., CDT. The southbound train’s engineer was identified as Robert E. Bajorek, 53, of Little Rock, AR.
Noreen Hyslope of the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian, said that “According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s report, the train intersection is marked with cross-bucks only,” and Newscaster Sydney Smith of radio station KTTS reported that “The (Missouri State Highway) Patrol said the vehicle drove into the path of the Union Pacific train at an intersection with only cross-buck warning signs.”
According to the FRA, the crossing accommodates 20 Union Pacific trains daily at maximum allowable speeds of 70 mph.