(Holts Corner, Tennessee – December 17, 2011)
A Christmas shopping trip for a 61-year-old grandmother and her nine-year-old grandson ended in tragedy before it began Saturday about 9:15 A.M. when their 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo was struck by a CSX freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of CSX tracks directly across from the Holts Corner Quick Stop in the unincorporated Marshall County, TN community of Holts Corner.
Wanda Gayle Shirley, who lived just a block from the crossing and had stopped to check her mail at her mailbox adjacent to the crossing, and her grandson, Michael Polk, had just set out on a Christmas shopping trip when the tragedy occurred at the crossing, which is without any signalization to warn motorists of approaching trains.
The pair was described as “inseparable” by friends and relatives, with both Michael, a third grader at Chapel Hill (TN) Elementary School, and his two older brothers having been raiser by their grandmother.
Jan Yeager, younger sister of Shirley, said that the driver “Didn’t wear glasses and didn’t have any trouble hearing,” so she couldn’t explain what might have happened.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol, Chapel Hill Police Dept., Chapel Hill Fire Dept. and CSX investigators and agents responded to the horrible, pre-Christmas holiday tragedy.
The crossing, which is listed as “Railroad Road”, was thought to be private, but was listed on the Federal Railroad Administration’s crossing inventory as public, and had been the site of an injury accident on August 2 of this year.