(North Bend, Nebraska – June 20, 2018)
A 54-year-old Columbus, NE motorist was killed Wednesday night after being struck at 9:04 P.M., CDT while attempting to cross unguarded double Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The victim was driving northbound on Dodge County Road 4 (also listed as McGinns Lake Road on county maps) and was hit by one of the 51 UPRR freight trains that cross there at a maximum allowable speed of 70 mph.
Debra Kessler had to be extricated from the wreckage of her vehicle by North Bend Rescue personnel before she could be airlifted to Fremont Health Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. Whether she ever heard or saw the eastbound UPRR train was debatable.
“It’s just like with any train crossing accident, you kind of wonder why the individual didn’t see the train,” said Sheriff Hespen, adding that “You wonder why that oncoming train wasn’t seen, but train accidents happen all too often.”
The Sheriff pointed out that the last train fatality in the county occurred about two years ago, in the same general area: near County Road 3 near McGinn’s Lake.
It is virtually certain that these fatalities would not have occurred if the crossing was equipped with active warning devices. Both Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings and studies have confirmed that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train collisions by as much as 96%.