(Homer, Nebraska – June 23, 2013)
Although a 51-year-old motorist probably never saw the train that hit him at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks and Dakota County Road 225 just north of Homer, NE, law enforcement authorities ventured beyond their normal duties, assuming the roles of judge and county prosecutor Sunday afternoon at about 12:20 P.M. by stating to news media that “In most cases, the driver of the car is at fault in a car train collision.”
Local resident Tony C. Josta was “still alive when investigators checked on him” after he was flown by helicopter to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, IA, where he was admitted in critical condition, after his eastbound Kia was struck by the northbound BNSF train at the crossing where trains approaching from the south are difficult to see due to the acute 45 degree angle of approach to the gravel-surfaced CR 225. BNSF tracks closely parallel Highway 77 in that area, with a stop sign for the highway located about a car’s length beyond the crossing at the intersection with the highway. The railroad crossing of CR 225, which sees a daily average of 11 BNSF trains at a top allowable speed of 49 mph, is marked only by standard, passive railroad cross-buck signs which offer no warning whatsoever of approaching trains as flashing lights and crossing gates would.
As previously stated, this incident happened at a dangerous, unguarded crossing. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver know 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%.
The victim’s Kia vehicle was virtually destroyed after the train’s locomotive struck the passenger side of the auto and knocked it several hundred feet into a nearby farm field.
Dakota County Sheriff Chris Kleinberg and Deputy Penny Kleinberg investigated the accident.