(Lenapah, Oklahoma – December 2, 2015)
A Nowata County, OK road grader operator lost his life Wednesday morning at about 9:50 A.M., CST when a northbound Union Pacific train hit the 1994 John Deere motor grade he was moving from one county job site to another at the dangerous, unguarded, partially-obscured, acutely angular-train-approach crossing of Nowata County Road 8 and UPRR tracks just west of U.S. Highway 169 3½ miles north of Lenapah. Oklahoma Highway Patrol sources indicated the victim, Cleo Robert “Bob” Standeford, 71, of Lenapah, OK.
Witnesses said they heard a train horn but it was doubtful such could be heard by the victim above the noise of the piece of construction equipment he was operating eastbound according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Austin Brown. The Trooper also told news media sources that the CR 8/UPRR crossing had “Railroad crossing yield signs and railroad cross-bucks, but no lights or crossing arms present.”
Federal Railroad Administration records show the crossing is used by 23 UPRR freight trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph. Nowata County Road 8 is approached at a slight angle by UP tracks, with an eastbound vehicle having to contend both with an acute angular view of any train approaching from the south on a rail route further hidden from clear view by a standing line of trees. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both Union Pacific 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%.