(Slidell, Louisiana – April 26, 2013)
A trip to a grocery store turned deadly Sunday night at about 8:15 P.M. when Bonnie Gibbs, 57, of Slidell, LA had her car hung up on rock ballast at the crossing of Lafayette Street and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks as she journeyed toward Rouses Supermarket in Slidell.
Although the NS/Lafayette Street crossing is equipped with active crossing signals, the victim became entrapped on the crossing, which is of widely separated tracks, one the main line, which parallels Front Street, and the other an industrial siding which angles away from the main track, exposing the rear of her Ford Taurus to the main track, no train was in sight.
Ms. Gibbs attempted to drive her vehicle out of harm’s way, but as a southbound NS freight train triggered the crossing signals as it approached the Lafayette Street crossing, she attempted to exit her car, and was able to run free from the impaled auto. Tragically, as the train, which police officers said was travelling at 42 mph, well below the 55 mph maximum speed allowed for the 14 trains which cross there daily, struck the exposed end of the victim’s vehicle, the car was rotated and spun directly into Ms. Gibbs, killing her instantly.
Police investigators, led by Detective Daniel Seuzeneau, quickly ruled out alcohol or drug impairment as a factor, but still obtained blood samples from the deceased for testing purposes.
The tragedy was the second train/car death in two months in Slidell, coming after the March 8 death of Jamii Pizzatolo at the Norfolk Southern/Pennsylvania Street crossing, a situation which police investigators felt may have involved driver impairment. The only previous accident at the NS/Lafayette Street intersection was a non-injury collision on May 27, 2009.