Railroad News

Highly Respected Texas Law Enforcement Officer Killed at Dangerous, Unguarded Union Pacific Crossing

By November 23, 2016 No Comments

(Kingsville, Texas €“ November 16, 2016)

The dangerous and unguarded Union Pacific Railroad crossing of Kleberg County Road 2140, just south of Kingsville, TX, was the site Wednesday morning tragedy which occurred at about 7:30 A.M., CST.  The death of a highly respected south Teas law enforcement officer sent €œan incredible shock for those who knew and those who worked with.€  The victim, Ken Starrs, 65, had spent nearly four decades in law enforcement and was currently the assistant commander of the South Texas Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force, according to Corpus Christi KRIS-TV reporter Jennifer Lira.

Starrs was on his way to work as he turned off of U.S, Highway 77, which parallels UPRR tracks, and onto CR 2140 crossing. Another member of the task force said €œWe all cross that railroad crossing on a daily basis.€ According to KRIS-TV the intersection €œhas raised some questions regarding the safety of that particular crossing, €œemphasizing that €œOn the crossing, there is a railroad crossing sign, but no flashing lights or crossing arms.€

There are no active warning devices, such as lights and gates, which would alert drivers of an approaching train like the four daily UPRR freights which roll over the road/rail intersection at a maximum allowable speed of 40 mph. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened.  Both Union Pacific 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%.

According to the camera mounted in the nose of the locomotive of the 53-car train, Starrs complied with the signs at the crossing before driving across the crossing and being hit on the driver€™s side. Union Pacific spokesman Jeff DeGraff told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times of the officer€™s actions €œThis is something we€™ve seen numerous times before.€

Meanwhile, Corpus Christi KIII-TV€™s Michael Gibson pointed out that efforts were being made €œat the state and county level to better protect that crossing.€

The deceased had a career in law enforcement, spending over 27 years with Corpus Christi Police Dept. before retiring in 2004 and then working for various area police agencies, including the Port of Corpus Christi Police, since then. His wife, Karen, also worked for the CCPD until 2003 as a crime prevention specialist.

Among Starrs€™ numerous civic accomplishments was his work with the €œShop with a Cop€ pre-Christmas program which paired law officers with underprivileged children to shop for gifts for family members and the kids themselves.

Both Union Pacific and Texas Operation Lifesaver were quick to take advantage of the media€™s window of opportunity created by the tragic and deadly accident. In an interview with Sally Tingle, executive director of Texas OL, Corpus Christi Caller-Times staff writer Chris Ramirez noted that €œIn rural areas, it€™s rare to find railroad crossings with lights and gates to warn drivers of an oncoming train.€

The Operation Lifesaver program is closely associated with the railroad industry in both personnel and financial support. UPRR is a key player in the OL program in every state the railroad operates.