(McDowell County, North Carolina – August 10, 2011)
A 79-year-old man, returning from a visit to his daughter’s home, died when he was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of NS rails and Fairfield Lane in rural McDowell County, NC about 10:30 A.M. Wednesday morning.
James Lingle Jr. of Lenoir, NC, was driving his 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, and stopped before proceeding across the NS Railroad tracks but evidently did not see the approaching train. The minivan was then struck and knocked 40 feet down an adjacent street by the locomotive.
The victim was dead at the scene, and required over an hour for first responders to extricate his body from the minivan’s wreckage. There are no lights, bells or gates at the crossing, with ineffective protection left up to passive railroad crossbuck signs.
The tragedy was made more bizarre by the uncalled for actions of a man who identified himself only as a Norfolk Southern investigator, and behaved in what was described as a “highly agitated” manner in ordering news media off the site, but refusing to state his name or contact information, actions typical of railroad officials seeking to conceal accident facts from public scrutiny.