(Hallett, Oklahoma – August 30, 2014)
A male resident of Maramac, OK died and his wife and daughter were injured two Saturday’s ago at about 4:00 P.M., CDT when the pickup truck they were in was struck by a northbound BNSFfreight train at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Pawnee County Road 520 and BNSF railroad tracks just north of Hallett, OK.
Paul Wayne Watson, 49, was driving east on CR 520 (or 5200, to which it also is referred) when the train came around a sweeping curve obscured by a line of trees and struck the Watson’s vehicle on the passenger side.
Mr. Watson wife, Terri Watson, also 49, was taken to a Tulsa, OK hospital where she was admitted for treatment of arm, leg and internal injuries. The couple’s daughter was taken to a hospital in Cleveland, OK, where she was treated and released.
The BNSF rail corridor through Pawnee County is a prime example of the vulnerability of non-active crossing protection systems, such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates. There are 41 crossings in the corridor, eight of them with the full set of protective devices. There has not been a crossing accident recorded on any of those crossings since the establishment of the Federal Railroad Administration’s crossing inventory/accident statistic recording process nearly 50 years ago.
But that’s where the record for Pawnee County becomes ugly. The handful of flashing light-only crossings have recorded eight total accidents resulting in four non-fatal injuries. Meanwhile, the predominate number of passive signage-equipped crossings have produced a total of 34 accidents during that time period, resulting in four deaths and 26 non-fatal injuries.
The most recent Pawnee County/BNSF rail corridor accident prior to Saturday’s tragedy occurred on June 27, when a local woman was taking her grandchildren to a birthday party and her van collided with a BNSF freight train at the unguarded and dangerous crossing of County Road 3430 and BNSF tracks. The statistics recorded that day, when added to previous totals, came to a total of seven accidents producing 11 injuries, all non-fatal, for that single crossing alone!