(Sulphur, Louisiana – April 13, 2013)
The absence of railroad crossing gates probably contributed to a serious triple-injury accident Saturday afternoon at about 2:00 P.M. when a mother driving her two daughters in her 1994 Ford Escort had her car virtually destroyed by an Amtrak passenger train at the non-gated crossing of Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Doiron/Wassley Street in Sulphur, LA.
Although equipped with old-style, mast-mounted flashing lights, the crossing – which sets at an odd angle as it transforms diagonally from Wassley Street, as it is listed on Federal Railroad Administration records, to Doiron Street, as it is referred to locally – has considerable blockage to sight distances caused by both trackside structures and vegetation. The crossing has no crossing gates to separate train traffic from highway vehicles and their occupants.
The driver, Susie Hantz, 44, of Sulphur, had her 20-year-old daughter, Amber Hantz, riding in the front seat of the northbound vehicle while her 16-year-old daughter, Cellye Lyons, was riding in the back seat. The impact with the train tore the back portion of the Escort to pieces, scattering debris more than 110 feet along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks as the westbound passenger train ground to a halt well beyond the point of impact.
“After it (the Ford Escort) was struck, the vehicle began to rotate and the passenger in the back seat was ejected,” said Sulphur Police Chief Lewis Coats. “Witnesses saw the accident and gave her first aid until the ambulance arrived.”
All three women were admitted at a local hospital for treatment of undefined, multiple injuries. The UPRR/Wassley-Doiron Street crossing handles a daily average of 25 Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Amtrak trains at a top allowable speed of 79 mph.