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Fresno BNSF Crossings Produce Two Amtrak Pedestrian Deaths in One Week

(Fresno, California – November 22, 2013)

The second pedestrian death in less than a week at two consecutive, adjacent railroad grade crossings has both news media and the public concerned over safety matters on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad crossings of California and Church Streets in Fresno, CA. Both fatal accidents involved Amtrak trains approaching on parallel tracks to freight trains that had just cleared the crossings.

On Monday, a man on a bicycle had awaited the passage of a freight train at the Church Avenue crossing, and then, thinking the pathway across the rails was clear, crossed into the path of an Amtrak passenger train travelling on the adjacent track and hidden from view by the BNSF freight train. The tragedy which killed Ignacio Corona Medina occurred just prior to 7:00 A.M., and was the first recorded fatality at the BNSF/Church Ave. crossing which has now been the site of seven accidents which resulted in two non-fatal injuries as well. The crossing is fully signalized with flashing lights, bells and crossing gates.

The Friday tragedy occurred barely a half mile north of the site of Monday’s fatality, this time at the oddly-configured and partially gated crossing of BNSF railroad tracks and California Avenue, where Willie Davis, 55, of Fresno, CA waited – possibly for the same scheduled train – for a BNSF freight to cross before he walked across the non-gated side of the crossing and was struck by an Amtrak passenger train obscured from view by the freight train. Davis was struck and killed just before 7:00 A.M., almost the exact same time as Monday’s fatality.

The BNSF/California crossing has recoded 14 accidents, injuring a total of 12 people, other than Friday’s fatality which, ironically, was also the crossing’s first recorded death according to statistics kept by the Federal Railroad Administration.

“It’s too bad that somebody had to get hit again on this crossing,” lamented Steve Lion, who works near the intersection. “It seems that it happens quite often,” he told Reporter Amanda Venegas from Fresno ABC-affiliate KFSN-TV, Channel 30. “People are constantly walking back and forth across the tracks,” he continued. “And so if they don’t know there are trains coming, or that it’s coming too fast, they don’t know that the crossing arm’s not down because there is no crossing arm!” Lion explained as he described the one-sided, non-gated crossing “protection”, or partial lack thereof.

“Authorities say the signals are in compliance,” reported Venegas. “But two deaths just days apart hasn’t stopped some from questioning if more needs to be done.”

“I just hope somebody else doesn’t have to get hurt before they figure a way to keep people off these tracks,” Lion concluded.

The BNSF/Amtrak double-tracked rail corridor through the two Fresno crossings carries a daily average of 42 freight and passenger trains at a top allowable timetable speed of 40 mph.