(Union, Illinois – June 21, 2016)
A 57-year-old farm equipment operator was killed at about 8:00 P.M., CDT Tuesday evening near the McHenry County community of Union when a northbound Union Pacific freight train struck the 2007 John Deere 4720 crop sprayer he was attempting to drive eastbound across the dangerous and unguarded UPRR crossing of Olsen Road.
The McHenry County Coroner pronounced Mark Gavin, 57, dead at the scene after he was thrown from the tractorized equipment when the train, which he probably never saw nor heard, crushed his machine.
The Northwest Herald identified the crossing as “nonguarded”, while a news release issued by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office said “there are railroad crossing signs posted before the train crossing, but the crossing doesn’t have lights or gates.” 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%.
The crossing itself is extremely confusing, as it accommodates 3 sets of tracks, two rather widely separated from a third, single track, making sight triangle observation difficult for the vehicular operator. Oncoming trains travel through that crossing at speeds as high as 40 mph.