(Ypsilanti, Michigan – February 1, 2014)
The presence of uncleared snow across the railroad tracks on the Norfolk Southern crossing of East Cross Street and North River Street in the Depot Town shopping district of Ypsilanti, MI was likely a factor in the 12:20 P.M. Saturday collision between a Chicago-bound “Wolverine” Amtrak train and an automobile driven by a mother from Milan, MI with her teen-aged daughter in the front passenger seat, sending both women to different Ypsilanti hospitals with various injuries.
News media photos taken at the scene showed the tracks covered with snow and impossible to determine exactly where they were as the two women approached the crossing, where NS rails cut across both city streets at 45 degree angles.
Although signalized with lights and gates, the oddly-configured crossing caused the mother to stop behind what she thought was the crossing gate for the direction she was travelling, but instead she was stopping for the gate on the opposite side of the tracks, leaving the automobile in the path of the train, which struck and heavily damaged the vehicle.
Ypsilanti Fire Dept. Lt. Mike Kouba said that the teen passenger was transported to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital with moderate injuries, and the mother was taken to University of Michigan Hospital in stable condition. Neither victim’s name was released.
“I didn’t even feel the impact,” Amtrak passenger and Milwaukee, WI resident Erik Hanley told reporters from The Ypsilanti Courier, “but the train jolted when they pulled the brakes really hard. We were just sitting there and I saw there was a bumper on the street.”
Police had still not released the names of the victims late Saturday.