(Chillicothe, Ohio – May 6, 2015)
The driver of a semi-trailer truck who had just dropped off a load of seeds to a farm complex became the second driver killed at a dangerous and unguarded crossing near Chillicothe, OH when his truck tractor was crushed by an oncoming Norfolk Southern freight train at about 6:00 P.M. late Wednesday afternoon.
The Ross County coroner pronounced the victim, Vernon Cooper, 67, of Springfield, OH, dead at the scene after the train split the cab of the truck from its empty trailer, effectively destroying the tractor.
Witnesses, most of whom were ordered away from the tragic site in order to “allow investigators to examine the scene,” told a WBNS-TV reporter that “the Norfolk Southern train did not sound its horn, and that Cooper was already over the railroad tracks and did not have time to avoid the collision.”
Cooper, who worked for Lawn Master, Inc., had just delivered his load and was leaving the farm, probably headed home after his final delivery of the day.
Media reports, again acting on information provided by both witnesses and the FRA website, said that an earlier collision between a highway vehicle and a NS train the morning of November 17, 2005 resulted in the death of the motorist. Yet, the crossing still lacked any form of active protective devices such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates, which, along with the train’s horn, could have prevented the tragedy through warning the victim of the oncoming train.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident and the one back in 2005 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%.