(Rome, Georgia – March 31, 2013)
The best in railroad grade crossing protective systems couldn’t counteract the apparent effect of a deep drop-off at the edge of an asphalt city road in Rome, GA, resulting in near-death experiences for a local mother and her four-year-old daughter Easter Sunday afternoon, March 31.
The accident occurred after Laterica Finley’s eastbound silver Chrysler Sebring broke its passenger side front axle as she passed over the East 12th Street crossing of Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, an intersection which, like a number of Georgia road/railroad crossings, has a deep drop off as the road surface crosses the tracks.
“I got out to see why I couldn’t move,” recalled the young mother. “I thought someone had hit me,” she continued, adding “Then I heard someone say ‘I think I hear a train coming.’”
With only seconds to act, Finley got her daughter out of the car and to a safe distance away from the tracks before the crossing gates descended and a Norfolk Southern freight train rammed into the passenger side of her disabled auto.
Even though protective systems at the NS/12th Street intersection have gradually progressed from standard, passive crossbuck signs to flashing lights, bells and gates, the crossing has been the scene of five previous accidents resulting in a pair of fatalities and three non-fatal injuries. The Federal Railroad Administration inventory, often a fallible guide since all input is made by the individual railroad companies, indicates that between 72 and over a hundred trains pass over the intersection daily at a top allowable speed of 40 mph.
Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Susan Terpay indicated that “We’ll do some interviews and determine what happened. You have local police come out since there was a motorist involved, but we have our own people come out as well for our purposes.”
She failed to elaborate on just what those purposes are, but Terpay did commend the motorist for doing what she should have done, given the situation.