(Springfield, Missouri – June 6, 2013)
Seat belts may have saved the life of a 21-year-old resident of Springfield, MO about 8:30 P.M. Thursday night, but the presence of crossing gates at the Farm Road 97/Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad crossing about two miles west of Springfield was of no benefit to him, as they did not exist as part of the protective system at that road/rail intersection.
Justin Napper was driving his 2004 Jeep Liberty SUV north on FR 97 when he was struck by the westbound BNSF train at the crossing, which did have standard mast-mounted flashing lights and bells, but not the complete protection package (lights, bells and gates) that an Association of American Railroads study five years ago claimed could eliminate 94% of such accidents.
The victim was flown by helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO, where he was admitted in serious condition, as Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. R.W. Schafer termed his vehicle’s damage as “extensive”. BNSF Locomotive Engineer Shane Cordova of Aurora, MO sustained minor injuries which were addressed at the scene.
The BNSF/FR 97 intersection, which experiences the crossing of an average of 21 trains daily at a top allowable speed of 50 mph, and is located near the Springfield Airport, and has been the site of one previous, non-injury accident.