(Sweet Home, Arkansas – July 3, 2014)
A nine-year-old Pulaski County, AR boy lost his life at a non-gated Union Pacific Railroad crossing in Sweet Home, AR Thursday morning at about 8:15 A.M. when his father attempted to drive the family’s 2012 Chrysler 300 across UPRR tracks on Harper Road and on to Arkansas Highway 365, only to have a Memphis, TN-bound train carrying auto parts strike the car and carry it and its occupants several hundred yards down the track.
Floyd May was a passenger in the car driven by Corey Sucedric May, 38, of Sweet Home and with the victim’s 14-year-old brother and 11-year-old sister in the car as well. Floyd died while the driver and father suffered neck injuries, the girl received leg injuries, and the 14-year-old boy was also injured. The 11-year-old girl was flown to a Little Rock hospital, while the other two survivors were taken by ambulance.
The crossing, which accommodates the passage of 23 UPRR freight trains daily at a top allowable speed of 50 mph, has flashing lights and bells but lacks crossing gates, which could have prevented Wednesday’s tragedy. The accident was the third to occur there and both the first fatality and non-fatal injury cases recorded, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
The driver’s first cousin, John Muhammad, who lives just a few blocks from the crossing, observed to KARK-TV, Channel 4, that “When it happened, everybody knew about it. And it happened so fast, so quick,” adding that “Anytime something like that happens, it takes away from the overall community.”
But he and others cast a critical eye upon the reliability of the warning lights at the gateless crossing. “The railroad track’s lights flash sometimes, sometimes they don’t,” continued Mohammad. “And the train is right up on you before you know it.”
Susan Forte, who told KARK-TV that she grew up with both the driver of the ill-fated car and his wife, had a somber observation. “It’s just a sad situation and we hate that this has happened,” but added that “It’s also a wakeup call.”
Another local resident, Jay Pittman, whose grandfather died in a railroad crossing accident in the same area, commented “Everyone that’s familiar with the area knows that the railroad crossings between Wrightsville to College Station have been trouble for years.”