(Newton, Kansas – July 13, 2012)
A 21-year-old Whitewater, KS man was seriously injured Friday morning when the grain swather farm implement he was operating was struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of BNSF tracks and Grace Hill Road in Harvey County, KS.
Jason Kornfeld apparently neither saw nor heard the train until it hit his machine, impaled it on the front of the locomotive, and dragged it 1,290 feet before stopping. At some point, the victim was thrown from the swather. The victim was still conscious when emergency help arrived, and was flown by an Eagle Med helicopter to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, KS, where he was admitted in critical, but stable, condition.
Even though 40 trains, including Amtrak, cross the BNSF/Grace Hill Road intersection daily at speeds of up to 70 mph, the crossing is protected only by a standard, passive railroad crossbuck sign, totally lacking any automatic protective systems such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates, the likes of which could have been of significant value in preventing the accident.
“This is not a controlled intersection,” noted Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton, whose agency responded to the scene as well as the Whitewater Fire Dept., Newton Fire and EMS, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Kansas Highway Patrol.
The extremely expensive farm implement, valued at well over $100,000 new, was destroyed beyond repair.