(Pass Christian, Mississippi – August 29, 2013)
Being properly restrained in a car seat approved for infant auto travel may have saved the life of a Mississippi infant, but the child’s grandmother was killed after the white SUV she was driving south on Hiern Avenue in Pass Christian, MS was struck by an eastbound CSX freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of the two modes of transportation early Friday afternoon at about 1:24 P.M.
Sharon E. Jones, 62, of Pass Christian was pronounced dead at the scene by Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove, but her infant grandchild, for whom neither gender nor residence was given by authorities, was taken to an area hospital and admitted in stable condition. The SUV was hit and dragged an estimated 1,800 feet before becoming dislodged from the locomotive and cast to the side of the tracks with irreparable damage. The child’s survival was nothing short of a miracle.
CSX tracks closely parallel Railroad Avenue in the Gulf Coast community, and many city streets like Hiern Avenue are given only a standard railroad crossbuck sign and a highway stop sign to mark the crossing’s location, but no active railroad crossing protection such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates to halt tragedies such as occurred Friday. Although the narrow Railroad Avenue separates extensive housing and real estate from the tracks, the proximity of the buildings blocks an unobstructed view for southbound motorists to see eastbound trains. According to Federal Railroad Administration-published, CSX Railroad-generated statistics, a daily average of 14 freight trains cross the Hiern Avenue/CSX intersection daily at a top allowable speed of 45 mph.
As previously mentioned, this crossing did not have any lights or gates. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both CSX Transportation and Operation Lifesaver know 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%.