(Milford, Illinois – November 17, 2015)
A 53-year-old local man, known for his small business leadership and unselfish public service to his community, was tragically killed at about 9:30 A.M. Tuesday morning when his vehicle was traveling westbound on Iroquois County, IL Road 1120 N about a mile from his home and collided with the locomotive of a southbound CSX freight train at the dangerous and unguarded road/rail intersection located there.
The victim was identified as James P. Cook, owner of A-1 Cook’s Crane Service in Milford, IL. According to the Iroquois County Sheriff’s Office, it was unknown if rainy conditions at the time were a factor in the tragedy.
Cook’s death was taken especially hard by Iroquois County Coroner Bill Cheatum, who was personally acquainted with the victim, calling him “A great guy.” The coroner took particular issue with the fact that the 1120-N/CSX crossing had neither flashing lights nor gates, which could possibly warn motorists of the presence of any of the 18 freight trains that Federal Railroad Administration records indicate pass there at a top allowable speed of 60 mph. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both CSX 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%.
“He is going to be missed,” lamented Coroner Cheatum of the passing of his friend, whom he was forced to pronounce dead. “He was always there to help,” he told Kankakee Daily Journal Reporter Jeff Bonty. “The Little League field needed poles put up for lights, (and) he did it at no charge.”