(Macoupin County, Illinois – February 14, 2014)
The passenger in a westbound 1997 Chevrolet truck was killed late Friday morning about 11:30 A.M. when it was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern freight train at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of St. Johns Road in rural Macoupin County, IL.
Truck driver Brian L. Irwin, 30, of Litchfield, IL was seriously injured and was transported by Arch Helicopter Service to Memorial Hospital in Springfield, IL. His passenger, Nicholas H. Raphole, 26, also of Litchfield, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Macoupin County Coroner.
The tragedy was another unnecessary and needless death that can be attributed to a lack of any form of active protective devices at the rural crossing which accommodates 15 Norfolk Southern trains daily at a top allowable speed of 60 mph. The crossing has only passive, standard railroad cross-buck and highway yield signs, devices which can only indicate the location of a railroad and cannot possibly warn motorists of oncoming trains. Only properly-operating flashing lights, bells and crossing gates can give such a warning.
It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both Norfolk Southern and Operation Lifesaver know 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%.