(Bonnieville, Kentucky – October 17, 2015)
Four occupants of a pickup truck escaped death, but not serious injury Friday afternoon when their vehicle was struck on the passenger side by a CSX freight train at the intersection of Kentucky Highway 728 (Priceville Road) and CSX tracks in the Hart County community of Bonnieville, KY. “The crossing in question does have flashing lights when a train is near, but no arms that drop down,” reported Jake Boswell of WBKO-TV news.
Most seriously injured when their westbound pickup was struck and dragged south down CSX railroad tracks for an undetermined distance was two-month-old infant Armando Santiago Rocha, who was airlifted to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, KY, where his condition was reported to be “serious but stable.”
The driver, Mariah Garcia, 21, was flown by helicopter to the University of Louisville Hospital, where her condition was listed as “critcal but stable.” Among the two as-yet unidentified male passengers, one was hospitalized locally while the other was said to be shaken but otherwise unhurt.
“It was very traumatic,” said Bonnieville City Clerk Bonita Hendren to the WBKO reporter. “The ambulances and emergency people hadn’t even hardly gotten there yet when the helicopter arrived. You’re thinking the worst,” the Bonnieville city official continued. “It’s almost like you relate it to everybody, it’s that close,” Hendren commented on the closeness of the small community in the face of tragedy. “And when something terrible happens, you feel that, it passes, it’s just a universal feeling.”
Residents were seriously concerned as the emergency vehicles travelled in the direction of the community’s elementary school just as students were being dismissed for the day.
Without crossing gates, railroad crossing is lacking essential “protection,” which leads to situations like Friday’s tragic occurrence. Upgrading warning devices at a railroad crossing from solely flashing lights to flashing lights and gates has been proven to reduce up to three fourths of accidents. At this crossing, to further complicate crossing safety issues, the presence of trackside trees and structures impair the motorist’s view of the crossing where Federal Railroad Administration records show a daily average of 18 CSX trains pass at a top allowable speed of 60 mph.