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Motorist Seriously Injured At Notorious Ohio Crossing; Gates Had Been Authorized, Never Installed

(Miamisburg, Ohio – January 23, 2012)

The driver of an eastbound pickup truck was seriously injured Monday morning about 9:30 A.M. when his vehicle was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern freight train at the non-gated crossing of Kercher Street and NS railroad tracks in Miamisburg, OH.

The collision that sent Robert Morris, 61, of Miamisburg, to an area hospital with critical injuries need never have happened had the responsible entities acted upon the authorization to add gates to not only the Kercher Street crossing, but several others in Miamisburg as well. According to documentation supplied by attorney Konrad Kuczak, who is representing a plaintiff who was injured at the same crossing in 2008, officials with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, ODOT, the City of Miamisburg, the Norfolk Southern Railway and the Ohio Rail Development Commission had recommended in 2007 that a gate be installed at the Kercher Street crossing, a project that was slated to be completed within one year and would have cost about $1 million.

Meanwhile, further documents filed by the attorney representing Ralph Van Hoose Jr. showed that the railroad and city also failed to act upon a $190,000 grant from ODOT, intended for the installation of crossing gates at the intersection of NS railroad tracks and Kercher Street.

Now, according to an e-mail from NS public relations manager Dave Pidgeon, “The Kercher Street grade crossing is part of a much larger corridor project that involves a series of crossings along a line of rail in and around Miamisburg, which is pending approval,” adding that “We are not at liberty to say more.”

A witness to the Monday tragedy had told police that the victim seemed to be stuck on the tracks and attempting to move his vehicle and escape the train’s path before the train struck the passenger side of his white Ford Ranger.

Miamisburg Police Sgt. Jon Thompson said that “We’re thinking he just didn’t notice the train because a witness could see him trying to work the gear shift to take action to get off the tracks,” adding that no charges were expected to be filed in the incident.

The accident was the seventh collision between trains and highway vehicles, and the injury marked the fifth, at the crossing, which has standard flasher signals, but no gates to protect drivers from collisions with trains.

The victim, who suffered head trauma and was unresponsive at the scene, was airlifted to Miami Valley Hospital by Careflight, where he was listed in critical condition in the ICU.