(Chetopa, Kansas – July 1, 2015)
A second railroad-owned truck was struck at an unguarded road/rail intersection near the Labette County, KS community of Chetopa on Wednesday, July 1. This collision occurred barely more than a week after the driver of a dump truck owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe was seriously injured in a collision with a Norfolk Southern freight train at the dangerous and unguarded railroad grade crossing of Pigg Lane in Orrick, MO on Tuesday, June 23,
The most recent collision occurred at the crossing of County Road 7000 and Union Pacific Railroad tracks at about 1:00 P.M. Wednesday. The collision sent both the driver, John Tyler, 35, of Chanute, KS and his passenger, Everett Smith, 45, of Neodesha, KS to Labette (KS) Health Care Center and Freeman Hospital in Joplin, MO, respectively, for treatment of the injuries each received in the collision.
Clifford R. Burkhardt, 59, of Carrollton, MO, the driver of the 2012 BNSF-owned Freightliner semi-trailer truck tractor, was sent to North Kansas City, MO Hospital for treatment of serious injuries June 23 after the third-recorded crash at the unguarded intersection where a daily count of 17 trains cross at a top allowable speed of 60 mph.
In the July 1 accident, the 80-car UPRR train being powered by three locomotives and carrying soybean meal from Iowa to Texas struck and dragged the truck a considerable distance, causing both an explosion and fire to the truck.
Federal Railroad Administration records did not indicate the previous occurrence of any accidents at the rural Kansas crossing, but the Parsons (KS) Sun pointed out that “the railroad crossing has cross-bucks, but no gates or signal lights.”
“We’re very fortunate there wasn’t a worse situation than this,” said Labette County Sheriff Robert Sims.
It is virtually certain that if these crossings were equipped with lights and gates these collisions would not have occurred. Union Pacific, BNSF, 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%.