(Afton, Oklahoma – December 9, 2014)
A 16-year-old Afton, OK boy who was a passenger in a pickup truck when it was struck by a BNSF Railway freight train at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Ottawa County, OK Road 210 and BNSF railroad tracks northeast of Afton Friday at about 4:55 P.M., CST died Tuesday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO.
Nathan Smith was a passenger in the 1995 GMC pickup truck being driven eastbound on the gravel-and-dirt-surfaced CR 210 by Tyler Malinski, 18, also of Afton, when they encountered the train at the oddly-angled, somewhat “Z” shaped crossing which has no flashing lights or crossing gates to warn drivers of an oncoming train. Heavy rains falling in the area at the time of the crash made sight and surface conditions even worse at the crossing which Federal Railroad Administration records indicate is traversed by an average of eight trains daily at a maximum speed of 50 MPH.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both BNSF 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%.
Malinski was ejected from the vehicle and thrown about 100 feet, while Smith was trapped inside the destroyed vehicle for 45 minutes before Afton firefighters could free him with the “Jaws of Life.” His injuries were so critical that he was flown to the renowned Kansas City care center with internal and external trunk and serious leg injuries. Malinski was taken to Freeman Hospital in Joplin, MO, suffering from head, arm and trunk injuries.