(Columbus, Indiana – June 3, 2020)
A 26-year-old city utilities employee driving a city-owned dump truck was killed early Wednesday afternoon at about 12:40 PM when he was struck by a Louisville & Indiana freight train. The collision occurred at the non-gated crossing of Louisville & Indiana railroad tracks and Indianapolis Road in the city of Columbus.
As was reported, Brandon S. Hendershot, became the first fatality at the grade crossing which lacked the most critical element of rail crossing safety: crossing gates. The crossing is used by five daily school buses on days when school is in session. Studies have concluded that the installation of automatic gates to a flashing light only crossing reduces the probability of collisions by up to two thirds.
The victim was airlifted to a hospital by Lifeline Helicopter Service, but passed away from his life-threatening injuries after arrival at the hospital. In a statement, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said that Hendershot “was beloved by his family and co-workers.”
Collisions between highway vehicles and Louisville & Indiana trains at the Indianapolis Road crossing have been frequent and recent, but none were more deadly than the Wednesday tragedy. The regional Louisville & Indiana railroad, which serves Indiana and Kentucky, experienced non-injury collisions there on November 12 of last year, as well as a second non-injury accident that occurred March 13 of this year. That equals 3 incidents in less than a year, and should have been a signal for the need of more effective public safety measures.