(Bluffton, Indiana – September 30, 2015)
An as-yet unidentified local farmer had his fall harvest plans literally “blown up in smoke” Wednesday afternoon shortly before 4:30 P.M. when he attempted to drive his self-propelled combine across the dangerous and unguarded, rough-surfaced, rural grade crossing of East County Road 300 South about four miles southwest of Bluffton, rural Wells County, IN. His combine was struck, heavily damaged and set on fire by a Norfolk Southern Railway freight train, one of a daily average of 32 NS trains which cross that road/rail intersection at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph. Federal Railroad Administration-housed documentation indicated that the crossing had experienced one previous, non-injury accident.
The crossing, which is located on the dirt, county-maintained road just east of the heavily-traveled “Hoosier Highway”, is not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates.
Pointing out that the impact ignited the fire, which was still smoldering with thick smoke hours later as investigators shut down Hoosier Highway to gather facts surrounding the near-human, heavy-financial tragedy, an unidentified Bluffton Fire Dept. Battalion Chief told Fort Wayne, IN WANE-TV, News Channel 15 that not only were the flames extinguished fairly soon after the arrival of BFD firefighters, but that “the crossing does not have typical railroad crossing arms at the intersection.”