(Guthrie, Illinois – October 30, 2012)
A 79-year-old Livingston County, IL farmer was seriously injured Tuesday afternoon at about 1:45 P.M. when a chisel plow he was pulling southbound behind his John Deere 4630 tractor was struck by a Canadian National freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Ford County Road 700 East and CN railroad tracks just south of Guthrie, IL.
Jerome Lawless of Strawn, IL, got his tractor across the crossing, but the chisel plow he was pulling was struck by the westbound CN train, consisting of a single locomotive and 15 cars, and carried 1,300 feet before the train, which was traveling at 57 mph, could get stopped. The force of the collision caused the tractor to spin 180 degrees, ejecting the victim from his tractor and knocking him into a grassy, trackside ditch, where emergency responders found him.
Lawless was taken by ambulance to the helipad at Gibson City Area Hospital, where he was airlifted by helicopter to the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL with undisclosed injuries.
The crossing of 700 East and CN tracks has no active protective systems, instead being “protected” only by standard, passive railroad crossbucks and highway “yield” signs, but that didn’t stop Ford County Sheriff’s Dept. officers from ticketing the injured man for “disobeying a signal indicating an approaching train”. Perhaps he should have been charged with failure to see or hear flashing lights, bells and crossing gates which were not there? Getting seriously injured and having thousands of dollars in farm equipment destroyed wasn’t bad enough, so he got ticketed for failure to obey non-existent signals.
Responding to the accident were Gibson City EMT and Fire Dept. personnel, Gibson City Police and the Ford County Sheriff’s Dept.