(Chubbuck, Idaho – January 23, 2015)
The driver of a 1993 Chevrolet Blazer SUV was “thanking the good Lord” as he was consoled by family members who came to his aid after his vehicle was struck, spun around twice, and deposited in a trackside ditch by a Union Pacific train he barely saw as he attempted to cross UPRR tracks on Tyhee Road north of Chubbuck, ID last Friday afternoon at about 5:15 P.M., MST.
Chase Fernandez, 23, of Chubbuck suffered scrapes and bruises from the encounter, but escaped serious injury even though “I didn’t see any lights and there was no train horn” coupled with being blinded by the setting sun to keep the victim from seeing or hearing the train, one of a daily average of eight trains which pass over the intersection daily at a top allowable speed of 40 mph, as it bore down upon him.
The victim saw no flashing lights because the Tyhee Road/UPRR crossing has neither lights, nor bells, nor crossing gates to warn motorists of approaching trains. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident and the four preceding accidents 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%.
“When I saw the shadow of the train coming at me, I gunned it. It was just out of instinct,” said Fernandez, who was “still visibly shaken” when he talked to an Idaho State Journal reporter an hour after the accident, which, according to Federal Railroad Administration records, was the second to occur at the dangerous and unguarded intersection.
The Idaho State Police were conducting the investigation into the collision.