(Oneida Township, Michigan – August 19, 2015)
A Lansing, MI motorist died at about 10:25 A.M., EDT last Wednesday morning when her 2006 Chevrolet Malibu was struck by a CSX train at a dangerous and unguarded CSX railroad crossing in Oneida Twp., near Grand Ledge, MI.
The victim, Catherine Farlee, 41, was driving north on N. Cochran Road when she approached the notorious crossing, which lacked any form of active advance warning devices, such as lights and gates. The southwest quadrant of the crossing was shown, in news media photographs of the fatal site, to also have heavy vegetation making sight distance for the northbound motorist to be severely impeded from detecting northbound trains.
It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both 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%.
Neighboring resident Bobby Hutchinson told Lansing State Journal reporters and a photographer that Wednesday’s tragedy was “the third fatal accident to occur at that train crossing that he knows of” as he watched emergency response personnel work the collision scene. However, the Federal Railroad Administration’s railroad supplied file indicates that only a single non-fatality accident has been suffered there prior to Wednesday morning, and that only a single CSX train crosses there daily at a top timetable speed of 40 mph.
Officials, including the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police and CSX personnel, were still on the scene investigating the tragedy late Wednesday afternoon. “The train engineer was the only witness,” said ECSO spokeswoman Theresa O’Dell. “It’s a country road, and we really don’t have a good explanation of what happened yet.”