(Celina, Ohio – January 4, 2016)
A 9-year-old back-seat passenger of a 2004 Chrysler 300 driven by his father was seriously injured when an R.J. Corman Western Lines train struck their car at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Staeger Road near Celina, OH at about 5:45 P.M., EST late Monday afternoon.
The victim, Brandt Grunden of Saint Marys, OH, was first taken to Joint Township Memorial Hospital in St. Marys for stabilization before being airlifted to a Dayton, OH hospital for more extensive treatment of his injuries. The car he was in was driven northbound on Staeger Road by his father, Alexander Grunden, 42, and with his 14-year-old daughter, Brookelle, also a passenger. Although Brandt was seatbelted in the car’s right rear seat, the impact with the train ejected him from the vehicle as it spun and overturned. The Chrysler received what a Mercer County Sheriff’s Office report described as “disabling damage.” The report added that the driver “did not notice a westbound train” prior to attempting to cross the tracks, and indicated that no citations were issued.
As previously mentioned, this crossing has no active warning devices, such as flashing lights and automatic gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both R.J. Corman 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%
What is even more troubling is this crossing is on a school bus route and had experienced two previous injury accidents before Monday’s collision.
The R.J. Corman Western Ohio Lines consist of four separate short line railroads for the R.J. Corman Railroad Company, which operates 11 short line railroads, and is a subsidiary of the R.J. Corman Railroad Group, LLC, which altogether employ more than 1,600 people in 23 states, according to the company’s website.