(Zeeland Township, Michigan – June 12, 2017)
The promising life of a beautiful 17-year-old Zeeland Township, MI girl was cut tragically short after a 2:41 P.M., Monday afternoon crash with a CSX freight train. The collision took place when she first slowed her 2009 Ford Focus at the dangerous, unguarded and private CSX railroad crossing of the 6200 block of Chicago Drive, and then was hit by an eastbound train. Police believe she never saw nor heard the train coming.
Samantha Jo Lubbers was driving from an area of businesses near her home when police said she first slowed and then crossed in front of a 33-car train travelling at 35 mph. The crossing where the collision occurred accommodates a half dozen CSX freight and Amtrak passenger trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 65 mph.
It is not known when or if the train’s horn was sounded.
The unresponsive Samantha was extricated from her overturned vehicle by Zeeland Township Fire Rescue first responders. She was then airlifted to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI, where she succumbed to her injuries shortly after her arrival.
NBC News WOOD-TV, Channel 8 in Grand Rapids pointed out that “The railroad crossing where the crash happened doesn’t have red flashing lights to warn drivers about oncoming trains, nor does it have an arm (crossing gate) to prevent cars from driving onto the railroad tracks. Instead, there’s a stop sign and another sign (a railroad cross-buck) that warns drivers about trains.” It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision would not have occurred. Both CSX and Operation Lifesaver all 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 multi-lane, separated Chicago Drive closely parallels the CSX railroad track and serves as a clear distraction to motorists approaching it as the victim was.