(Columbia Township, Michigan March 1, 2017)
A 47-year-old female driver was killed and a 14-year-old boy, riding in the back seat of an eastbound SUV, was seriously injured when their car was struck on the drivers side by a southbound CSX freight train. The collision occurred at the dangerous and unguarded road/rail intersection of CSX rails and 16th Avenue in Columbia Township, MI Wednesday at about 3:47 PM, EST. The vehicle was knocked down CSX railroad tracks and into a trackside ditch near the intersection.
Tiffany Glidden was found deceased in the drivers seat, while Sammy Glidden, the 14-year-old passenger, had to be extricated from the vehicle via the Jaws of Life. He was taken to Kalamazoo Bronson Medical Center, where he was admitted in critical condition. Both were from Grand Junction, MI.
Fox 17 News reported that This train intersection has warning signs (railroad cross-bucks with highway yield signs attached to the same staff) about 100-150 yards before the crossing, and does not have drop arms (crossing gates) or red flashing lights (to give warning to drivers) when a train is coming. WMZZ-TV, Channel 13s report agreed with the assessment by saying There are no gates at this particular crossing. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with signals, such as lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. 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%.
The CSX train, which Van Buren County Sheriffs Office deputies estimated was traveling at 38-40 MPH at impact, was one of a half dozen trains that cross daily at a maximum speeds of 60 MPH.
Although investigating law enforcement deputies said the motorist failed to yield at the crossing, there was no mention of the fact that the sight distance for motorists of southbound trains is heavily obscured by both trees and terrain. Neither was there reference to the fact that the accident was the first fatality and the fourth incident, as well as the second non-fatal injury, to be suffered at the CSX/16th Avenue crossing.