(Warrensburg, Missouri – July 21, 2013)
A 42-year-old Warrensburg, MO grandmother and her 3-year-old granddaughter were seriously injured late Sunday afternoon when the black 2005 Ford Escape SUV the grandmother was driving was struck by a St. Louis-bound Amtrak train with 160 passengers on board which came out of the setting sun about 5:30 P.M., struck the vehicle at the Mitchell Street grade crossing, rolling it several times and forcing the train’s conductor and an “unidentified good Samaritan” to extricate the pair from the totaled vehicle after the train stopped.
Witnesses, friends and relatives questioned the integrity of the grade crossing protective system’s operation, telling KCTV, Channel 5 in Kansas City News Reporter Alice Barr that “the crossing gates may have hesitated to come down and the driver (Catherine M. Downing) didn’t see the train coming.” Meanwhile, Corporal Dustin Mayden of the Warrensburg Police Dept. told Kansas City Star News Writer Karen Dillon said that “The Missouri Highway Patrol is investigating and will determine if the crossing arms were working properly.”
Both Downing and her granddaughter, Rebecca Langner, also of Warrensburg, were initially taken by ambulance to the Warrensburg Hospital, from which Langner was airlifted by helicopter to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO, where she was undergoing treatment for her injuries and was listed in serious condition, while Downing was flown to Truman Medical Center in Lee’s Summit, MO where she was listed in critical condition after undergoing surgery for her injuries.
Channel Five’s Barr reported that “The Amtrak train was just getting up to full speed (70 mph), heading east toward Sedalia when it hit the SUV on the driver’s side.”
According to Federal Railroad Administration data, the Mitchell Street/Union Pacific Railroad crossing accommodates 23 freight and passenger trains daily at a top allowable speed of 70 mph.