(DeKalb County, Georgia – December 1, 2015)
A 62-year-old Lithonia, GA truck driver was killed Tuesday morning about 7:40 A.M., EST after his truck was struck by a northbound NS train consisting of three locomotives hauling 82 empty rail cars. Th trucker was struck at the Fleetwood Road Southeast (also known as DeKalb County Road 1702)/Norfolk Southern railroad crossing that serves a concrete recycling facility just beyond the reportedly dangerous and unguarded crossing that accommodates as many as 38 NS trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 50 mph.
Norman Devoe, Jr. was killed when his dump truck was struck and dragged by the train down the tracks about a quarter mile before coming to a halt at the Constitution Avenue crossing, which is fully signalized, a benefit the Fleetwood Road/NS intersection lacked in entirety.
Truckers who regularly use the crossing blame the lack of flashing lights and crossing gates for the collision. Federal Railroad Administration-kept records indicated Tuesday’s tragedy was only the second accident recorded at the crossing, which, even though on a publicly-maintained roadway, is designated as “private.” It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both NS 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%.
Witnesses Brendon Lewis and James Myers told CBS TV News Channel 46 that regardless of how much advance warning, if any, the victim had of the train’s approach, but were certain that the lack of lights and gates was a serious factor in the tragedy. “It would be great to have them (crossing arms and lights). It would definitely be safer. There’s a lot of traffic here,” Lewis told News 46 Reporter Melinda Roeder.
The men told the TV reporter that the crossing had been the site of “plenty of near misses” and that they would “like to see more signage or flashing lights installed to warn drivers.”
Both men rushed to help the ejected driver, but their efforts were futile. “I watched him take his last breath and there was absolutely nothing I could do,” lamented Myers.
“Despite the circumstances leading up to the crash, Myers and Lewis say they’d like to see the crossing reconfigured with lights and arms, like other crossings in the area,” reported CBS Channel 46’s Roeder. “They say a train horn just isn’t enough warning sometimes.”