(Laurel County, Kentucky – December 15, 2015)
A 67-year-old mother and her 37-year-old daughter are “lucky to be alive” according to the Laurel County, KY Sheriff’s Office after the pair was seriously injured in a collision between their westbound Toyota Camry and a northbound CSX freight at the dangerous, unguarded road/rail crossing of Hazel Patch Road and CSX tracks about 10 miles north of London, KY at 2:25 P.M. Tuesday.
Law enforcement officers and WYMT-TV, Channel 57 Reporter Bill Pendleton said that the intersection where Annetta Conley of East Bernstadt, KY and her daughter, Melissa, of London, KY were rushed to separate hospitals after the accident “has been an issue for many drivers in the past” and that “the crossing has no lights or cross bars, and is located around a curve; visibility in this area is very poor,” in pointing out the problems of the crossing. Federal Railroad Administration statistics show an average of 16 CSX trains cross daily at a maximum allowable speed of 25 mph. Twenty-five miles per hour is the alleged speed the 61-car-long train loaded with water pipe was going when it struck the driver’s side of the victims’ car, heavily damaging it. Indeed, news media video and still photographs showed the CSX/Hazel Patch Road crossing to be an elevated intersection with motorists’ sight triangles blocked by stands of pine trees.
The FRA also showed that Tuesday’s collision was the sixth crash to occur at the crossing, which as previously mentioned is still not equipped with any active warning devices, such as flashing lights and automatic gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both CSX and Operation Lifesaver 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%.
Annetta was airlifted to the University Of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center in Lexington, where she was admitted in serious condition for injuries which included numerous broken bones, while Melissa was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph Hospital in London, KY for treatment of undisclosed injuries suffered in the car/train collision.