(Adair County, Oklahoma – June 24, 2016)
A third collision which occurred Friday afternoon killed a Missouri man at about 1:00 P.M., CDT at a clearly dangerous and unguarded Kansas City Southern Adair County Road crossing just off U.S. Highway 59 near the Tyson facility between Watts and Westville, OK. The collision occurred between an eastbound semi-trailer truck driven by Timothy Schmidt, 54, of Missouri and pitted a 124-car-long northbound KCS train.
The locomotive engineer and conductor of the train, which, according to Federal Railroad Administration documents, was one of a daily average of 20 trains which cross there at a maximum allowable speed of 40 mph, were both injured and taken to local emergency room facilities for treatment. The driver, Schmidt, was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Although the crossing had twice before been the site of non-injury motor vehicle/train accidents, Friday’s fatality was the first casualty suffered at the crossing.
Meanwhile, both Tulsa and Oklahoma City TV stations, KOTV Channel 6 and KWTV Channel 9 ran clip art of fully signalized crossings with gates and lights with their coverage of the tragedy. Unfortunately this depiction was totally inaccurate, as there are no active signals at the road/rail intersection. However, it is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Both Union Pacific 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%.
“If there was (were) crossing arms or even just flashing lights at the crossing, it could have prevented it from happening,” observed Shelby Harvey, who works at Harp’s Food Store, a short distance south of the crossing. “There’s also trees to block the view if there is a train,” Harvey further commented.