(Climax, North Carolina – February 11, 2015)
A 64-year-old Climax, NC resident narrowly escaped death but not serious injury Wednesday morning at about 10:20 A.M. when the Nissan Pathfinder SUV he was driving and the utility trailer it was hauling virtually slid into the path of a Norfolk Southern freight train as he attempted to stop at the Guilford County grade crossing of Ledbetter Road and NS railroad tracks.
With neither flashing lights nor crossing gates to give notice of an approaching train, the extremely-angled intersection is the exact reason why such crossings need active protective devices. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both Norfolk Southern and Operation Lifesaver know that 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%.
According to North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Chris Knox, skid marks showed that the unidentified victim, who was transported to Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro for treatment of mainly superficial injuries, “basically slid in front of the train” after he locked his brakes up. However, the earlier on-scene diagnosis proved wrong after the victim was admitted in critical condition with a broken left wrist, numerous fractures and internal bleeding.
The train, one of four that cross there daily and consisting of three locomotives and seven freight cars, was traveling eastbound at 25 mph, the maximum allowable speed, as it served local industries in the area.