(Marionville, Missouri – March 3, 2016)
A motorist, identified initially only as a 23-year-old resident of Crane, MO, was fighting for his life after being airlifted to a Springfield, MO hospital as the result of a collision between his 1995 Chevrolet Lumina and BNSF freight train at on O’Dell Street in the Lawrence County city of Marionville, MO at about 9:23 A.M., CST Thursday morning.
“Reports are the victim has severe lacerations to the head and was barely breathing when crews arrived,” said 94.7 News KTTS Radio Newscaster Don Louzader. The crossing lacks a key element in rail crossing safety equipment, automatic gates. Moreover, although the O’Dell Street/BNSF intersection has single mast-mounted flashing light signals, news media photographs of the site from the direction of the victim’s approach seem to show a confusing image of the signals flanked by a tall, dark tree trunk, making the signals difficult to see.
The lack of crossing gates at the crossing, which has twice in the past been the scene of fatal motor vehicle/train collisions, is almost certainly a factor in this incident. Automatic gates have proven to reduce accidents by two-thirds when they are installed at flashing light only crossings. Crossing gates would have probably prevented all four accidents, including Thursday’s.
According to the FRA, BNSF operates a daily average of 26 freight trains across O’Dell Street at a maximum allowable speed of 50 mph. Also according to the same source, a December 17, 2012 crash between an auto and a BNSF train consisting of three locomotives pulling 50 cars at 45 mph, seriously injured a 38-year-old motorist and killed his passenger. Earlier, on February 2, 2002, two people died when their car was hit by a three locomotive, 72 car BNSF train moving at 25 mph.
Between the two fatal tragedies was also a November 26, 2010 non-injury collision between an car and a BNSF train consisting of two locomotives powering a 104-car train traveling at 32 mph.