(Leitchfield, Kentucky – September 28, 2018)
A beloved Louisville area teacher and mother was killed at an unguarded, vegetation-obstructed short line railroad grade crossing Friday afternoon about 4:00 PM. Her northbound car was struck by an eastbound Paducah & Louisville Railroad freight train.
Phyllis Minton, 63, of Leitchfield, KY, a math teacher at Grayson County High School for 25 years, was killed at a railroad crossing near her daughter and son-in-law Randy and Kim Pennington’s residence and auto repair shop on Black Rock Drive. The crossing is crossed by as many as 10 P&L trains daily at a maximum speed of 30 mph. Randy was at his Leitchfield business late Friday afternoon when he heard a crash and saw a plume of smoke. Responding to the emergency, he was shocked to find the victim to be his mother-in-law, who was unresponsive and still strapped in the driver’s seat of her car.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, the crossing is not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with protective warning devices, such as lights and gates, this collision would not have occurred. Both Paducah & Louisville Railroad and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings and studies have confirmed that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train collisions by as much as 96%.
WAVE, meanwhile, quoting K-105, reported that “the northbound crossing approach is at an uphill angle, with a clump of trees blocking the view of the tracks until the driver is nearly on the crossing. At the time of the accident, the sun would have been shining into the eyes of anyone near the tracks and looking west.” .
Louisville WHAS-TV interviewed Randy Pennington, who told the reporter that he “is calling on (railroad and government) safety officials to look at the stretch of Black Rock Drive, asking them to install a crossing gate and warning lights to make sure another family doesn’t suffer the nightmare they’re now living.”
“We can’t get her back. Nothing’s going to change that,” Pennington lamented. “But I think it’s (the safety measures) a small price to pay.”
The Paducah and Louisville RR operates 270 miles of track, all in Kentucky, and is owned, along with two other short line railroads, by the P&L Transportation Group.