(Bonner County, Idaho – October 8, 2015)
The deadly combination of one stopped train concealing the approach of a second train at an unguarded Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway crossing in Bonner County, ID, southwest of Cocolalla, and an unsuspecting motorist attempting to inch his vehicle across the double-track road/rail maze at the intersection of BNSF and Delay Farms Road Thursday evening at about 9:45 P.M., has resulted in another preventable tragedy.
The driver, 21-year-old Cooper Lee Anderson of Billings, MT, was pronounced dead at the scene after his slow-moving vehicle moved past the stopped southbound train and into the path of the unseen northbound train. His vehicle had been moving so cautiously slowly that some news reports said it was stopped rather than carefully crossing.
Even though the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Crossing Inventory states that a daily average of 55 Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Montana Rail Link freight and Amtrak passenger trains traverse the crossing at a top allowable speed of 79 mph, the Delay Farms Road crossing, which is just a few yards off of the heavily-travelled and railroad route-paralleling U.S. Highway 95, has no active signal protection like crossing gates or flashing lights to warn motorists of approaching, often unseen, trains.
It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both BNSF 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%.
Idaho State Police personnel and Bonner County Sheriff’s officers were investigating the tragedy.