(Athens, Tennessee – February 17, 2014)
“It wasn’t my time to go,” surmised 71-year-old Athens, TN motorist Warren King after a Monday morning collision between the Ford F-250 pickup truck he was driving and a Norfolk Southern freight train, operating at 35 mph, which struck the passenger side of his vehicle, carried it about 50 feet, and flung it to the side of the tracks at the non-gated Howard Street crossing in Athens.
The accident occurred about 10:45 A.M. as King was returning home from a daily dog-feeding trip to his kennel just across the tracks from his home. King said that he “Just stopped, I looked both ways up and down the track, but when I looked down, like always, I didn’t see a thing.” He then stepped on the truck’s accelerator, started across the tracks, and “Next thing I know, I was sliding up the track.”
“It was just an accident that I should have saw, but I never saw a thing,” recalled King. “All I can say is that I didn’t hear the train coming when I pulled on the side of the road. I didn’t see anything, but I didn’t hear anything either,” said the driver, whose injuries included cuts and bruises, rather minor conditions when considering how badly his vehicle was damaged.
Witnesses ran to King’s truck and, fearing a possible explosion of the vehicle’s fuel tank, quickly unfastened his seat belt and helped him out of his pickup. But once freed from the cab, King said reality began to set in. “I sat there and I saw my truck tore up, and then I was scared – I’m still scared,” he said. The Athens Police Dept., meanwhile, said that no charges would be filed because the collision was an accident.
Monday’s accident was the fourth for the non-gated crossing and second injury resulting from those crashes. And when one considers the fact, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, that an average of 70 trains cross Howard Street daily at top allowable speeds of 60 mph, the need for gates to be added to the crossings active warning devices should be a no-brainer.
King told WTVC News Channel 9 that flashing lights aren’t enough, and that he hopes the accident will force city administrators to install a railroad crossing gate.