(Kinston, North Carolina – October 15, 2014)
Lucky to be alive and glad to be home, even though a far cry from the 15-year-old sophomore student at North Lenoir High School in Kinston, NC, he was before a westbound Norfolk Southern freight train smashed the teen’s southbound pickup truck at a dangerous and unguarded private crossing leading from the Blizzard Building Supply Co. at 405 Walston Avenue, Riley Sasser returned to his home Wednesday after four months and five days of treatment and rehabilitation at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, SC.
The accident, which occurred about 11:30 A.M., EDT June 10, after “a freight train’s vicious collision with a full-size pickup truck sent the vehicle, tumbling and torn, down an embankment next to the tracks,” according to the Kinston Free Press, occurred at a crossing that is not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates.
Further muddying the waters was the fact that the crossing does not appear on the FRA’s National Crossing Inventory, and as such, may never have been reported by the railroad as supposedly required by the FRA (if it was, it is not listed in federal records four months after the crash). Federal records do indicate that, at adjacent public crossings, four NS trains pass through the rail corridor at a top allowable speed of 30 mph.
Sasser had to be extricated from his wrecked vehicle by Kinston firefighters, and was unresponsive as he was rushed to Lenoir Memorial Hospital to be stabilized, and subsequently airlifted to VMC in Greenville for treatment of his serious, life-threatening injuries.
Sasser was a junior volunteer fireman with the Hugo VFD.
Still in recovery, but now as an outpatient, Riley still suffers from loss of strength, immobility to his left arm and leg, and severely injured brain function.