(Fort Dodge, Iowa – June 24, 2017)
An as-yet unidentified mother driving her SUV southbound on Webster County, IA’s Racine Avenue near Fort Dodge, IA, was among four family members seriously injured Saturday afternoon about 3:24 P.M., CDT. The occupants in the SUV were injured when their vehicle was struck by an eastbound CN train at the dangerous, unguarded and vegetation-obscured crossing of Canadian National Railroad tracks.
All four occupants of the SUV were taken for treatment to Unity Point Health-Trinity Regional Medical Center in Fort Dodge. One of the most seriously injured children was subsequently airlifted to an undisclosed Des Moines hospital after helicopter arrival at Trinity.
News media photos of the accident scene show heavy trackside foliage in the northeastern quadrant of the road/rail intersection. This vegetation likely seriously impairs a southbound driver’s view of an eastbound train, which was the situation Saturday. Despite this heavy vegetation, according to Federal Railroad and local/regional media sources, “The crossing is marked with railroad crossbucks and yield signs,” said the Fort Dodge Messenger-News. “It is not marked with electronic signals or crossing gates.”
A daily average of eight CN trains cross the 2100 block of Racine Avenue at a maximum allowable speed of 50 mph. As previously mentioned, this crossing lacked automatic protective devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision would not have occurred. Both CN and Operation Lifesaver all 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%.
The Iowa State Patrol has taken over lead investigative agency duties regarding the tragic accident.