(Christian County, Illinois – May 28, 2015)
According to Christian County, IL Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp, a semi-trailer-truck driver from Blue Mound, IL is “very lucky he is still alive” after his eastbound vehicle was struck and set on fire by a northwest-bound Norfolk Southern freight train traveling at 50 mph at about 2 P.M., CDT Thursday afternoon at the dangerous and unguarded rail/road intersection of Christian County East 2300 North Road and angling NS tracks between Stonington ,IL and Blue Mound just south of the Macon/Christian County line.
NS tracks parallel Illinois Highway 48 and East 200 North intersects the highway just a few feet beyond the railroad crossing, which has no active signal protection like flashing lights, bells or crossing gates to protect motorists such as truck driver James Irvin, 37, from the daily crossing of 15 NS trains. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both Norfolk Southern 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%.
Irvin, who would have had the approaching train partially blocked from his view due to the acute angle formed by the county road and railroad tracks, had his tractor split from its flatbed trailer. The tractor burst into flames, but the victim was miraculously able to extricate himself from the fully-engulfed cab. Rescuers, one with a fire extinguisher, found him crawling up the embankment and away from the burning vehicle.
The driver was rushed by Decatur Ambulance to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, where he was treated.
The crash was the fourth to occur at the crossing and the first to result in injury.