(Ash Grove, Missouri – November 17, 2011)
Still grieving from the tragic loss of his mother at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Greene County, MO Farm Road 47 and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks Thursday morning, Brian Weatherford has become a man on a mission.
Helen Weatherford, 68, of Bois D’Arc, MO was killed by a 134-car BNSF coal train at the crossing, which lacks any form of automatic protective devices and, despite another death at the same crossing a few years ago, depends totally upon passive railroad crossbuck signs as “protection” for the driving public from trains. “The impact was so great we found glass 120 feet away from the impact,” said son Brian.
“There are trees and a lot of things blocking (the view of) those railroad tracks and you have got to pull right up on them to even be able to see a train coming,” Brian told Springfield, MO Channel 3 news reporter Mike Landis Friday. “I don’t have any idea why there is not a set of lights here,” he continued.
“When you get into these rural areas, there are a lot of these grade crossings that don’t have bells and lights,” observed Cpl. Dean Walters of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
An investigation by KYTV, Channel 3, the NBC affiliate in Springfield, MO, revealed that that there are nearly 130 public road/rail crossings in Greene County, and that in the western half of the county, only two crossings – Farm Road 33 and Farm Road 47 – the crossing where Weatherford’s mother died – and BNSF tracks lack active signals. Farm Road 84 used to be the same way until a female farmer driving her pickup was struck and killed there. Not long afterward, gates, lights and bells were installed at the formerly crossbuck-only crossing.
But as usual, BNSF lays responsibility for safety of the driving public crossing their tracks to state and local governments.
“Any change from passive warning devices to active warning devices is determined by individual state agencies and road authorities, typically the Department of Transportation in most states,” says BNSF Spokesman Andy Williams. “Each state determines if it is appropriate to equip public rail crossings with active devices, such as gates and flashing lights,” he continued.
But Brian Weatherford isn’t buying any of the propaganda. “How many lives is it going to take before they put up a set of lights?” he asked. “I am going to do everything in my power to get signals here,” he vowed.