Railroad News

Iowa Suffers Third Car/Train Tragedy in Two Weeks, This Time at Dangerous, Unguarded UP Crossing

(Moorland, Iowa – April 18, 2013)

A 74-year-old Fort Dodge, IA woman driving a 2007 Toyota Camry minivan became the victim of the third serious auto/train collision in the state of Iowa this month at about 8:00 P.M. Thursday night. Her vehicle was struck and dragged nearly a quarter of a mile by a trio of Union Pacific Railroad locomotives at the dangerous, unguarded intersection of Hayes Avenue and UPRR tracks between Moorland and Fort Dodge, IA.

Sheryl Parks had just turned north onto Hayes Ave. from County Road D-20, which parallels UP railroad tracks in that part of Webster County, when she was immediately struck by the first of three UPRR locomotives traveling east at the crossing, which is equipped solely with standard, passive railroad crossbuck signs and has no active protective devices such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, a system which railroad authorities have long stated could prevent over 90% of tragedies such as occurred Thursday night.

Parks’ death marked the third train-related tragedy in the state, following a horrible accident April 1 when two young sisters, ages four and five, died as their one-year-old sister and mother were seriously injured by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train at the Fourth Street crossing in Batavia, IA, where the mother drove around lowered crossing gates, as she had been instructed only minutes before, only to encounter the BNSF freight train which was hidden from her view by a standing BNSF train on a parallel track in Jefferson County. The second accident occurred last Friday, April 12, at the dangerous, unguarded crossbuck-equipped crossing of Union Pacific Railroad tracks and "G" Avenue near the city limits of Odgen, IA, when a 46-year-old father was driving his teenage son to school and was struck by a UP freight train consisting of two locomotives hauling 91 freight cars, seriously injuring the father and moderately injuring the son.

In Thursday’s fatality, the victim’s minivan was impaled upon the nose of the locomotive and carried some 1,700 feet east of the grade crossing, where the “train” came to a halt. Ms. Parks was pronounced dead at the scene by Webster County Coroner Dr. Dan Cole, who responded to the tragic site along with the Iowa State Patrol, the Fort Dodge and Moorland Fire Departments, EMT’s from Fort Dodge Trinity Regional Medical Center and the Webster County Sheriff’s Office.

There was no explanation coming as to why the crossing, which has extremely vague information in regard to train numbers and speeds at the crossing in its Federal Railroad Administration file is not equipped with crossing lights or gates. One media source was quick to point out that “The Union Pacific Railroad has conducted several programs in Webster County in an attempt to prevent grade crossing collisions. The railroad has taken local residents on short train rides during which they learn about grade crossing safety. The railroad has also joined forces with law enforcement agencies to catch drivers who violate grade crossing safety laws.”

In other words, victims and the survivors of these car/train tragedies are presumed responsible for their actions, but the railroads are not.