Railroad News

Iowa County Sheriff Faults Lack of Crossing Gates and Uncut Vegetation for Train Accident

(Homestead, Iowa – July 31, 2014)

The lack of active crossing protective devices and the presence of considerable vegetation at a rural Iowa County railroad grade crossing which experienced a serious accident and resulted in considerable injuries to the passenger in a car driven by the victim’s husband was blamed as primary factors by the Iowa County’s chief law enforcement officer in a post-crash interview Thursday at about 6:30 P.M., CDT.

A local couple, Gerald Schaapveld, 70, who was driving the pair’s car southbound on Johnson-Iowa Road just south of U.S. Highway 6 near Homestead, IA, and Helen Schaapveld, 68, the passenger, collided with a westbound Iowa Interstate freight train at the dangerous and unguarded intersection of the two modes of transportation.

Iowa County Sheriff Robert Rotter told KWWL-TV, Channel 7 Producer Jackie Wedeking that the driver “probably had a hard time seeing the train since the collision was at a spot where no crossing arms are present and there is a lot of vegetation nearby,” although the sheriff did qualify his remark by stating that the vegetation was still shown to meet legal requirements for the State of Iowa.

Regardless, the crossing, where Federal Railroad Administration documents show the passage of a pair of trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 40 mph, is not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates, this accident could have been prevented. 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%

Mrs. Schaapveld was taken to the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic in Iowa City, IA for admission and treatment of injuries from which the KWWL-TV producer indicated “She is expected to survive.”