(Suffolk, Virginia – October 10, 2012)
Grieving over the loss of their son in a semi/train collision at a heavily-tree enshrouded, dangerous, unguarded crossing in Suffolk, VA last week, the parents of the victim are calling out the CSX railroad, City of Suffolk and the State of Virginia for safety improvements at the deadly intersection, but the sole positive support of their campaign has come from a Hampton Roads, VA television station.
Drake Goodrich, 37, died Thursday afternoon at about 2:30 P.M. when his 18-wheeler was struck and dragged several hundred yards by a CSX train consisting of a single locomotive and four railcars loaded with crushed rock at the crossing leading into the O’Malley’s Used Auto Parts & U/C facility at 1325 Portsmouth Boulevard (Highway 58) in Suffolk. The crossing is “protected” only by passive railroad crossbuck and standard highway “stop” signs, lacking any flashing lights, bells or crossing gates that railroad sources claim could eliminate over 90% of such accidents.
The victim’s father, Leon Goodrich, says that the crossing is unsafe, and that he will not rest until active protective devices are installed at the crossing. He might have a lot of sleepless nights ahead of him, as neither CSX nor the City of Suffolk will accept responsibility for public safety at the crossing, hiding behind a “private crossing” clause in the Federal Railroad Administration’s “Guidelines for Grade Crossing Safety Improvement” manual, which assigns such decisions to “contractual arrangement between the railroad and the private property owner.”
“The trees are blocking everything,” said the senior Goodrich of the railroad crossing where his son died. “It is basically impossible to get the vehicle across the track until you pull completely upon it.”
TV station WAVY, Channel 10, the NBC affiliate in Hampton Roads, VA, sent a crew to Suffolk Tuesday to study the situation , and found that trucks had to inch their ways across the tracks to avoid being hit by one of the half-dozen trains that pass through the corridor daily at a top speed of 40 mph. One of the reporters also interviewed truck drivers on their impressions of the safety of the crossing.
“It’s the hardest one I’ve ever been around,” observed John Brinkley, a veteran of 17 years of driving semi-trailer trucks. “I mean most of them are gated if you can’t see, but this one, of course, isn’t gated; Just a stop sign up there.”
“I hope the city, the state, or the train company does what they’re supposed to do, so no one else loses their life,” lamented Goodrich, “because it’s hard to lose a child.”
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there have been two other accidents at the crossing, an injury wreck in 1994, and a non-injury collision in 2001.
Ironically, in the reports – which are written and submitted by the railroad – on both accidents, the narrative indicated that the driver’s views of the track were “unobstructed”. Obviously, somebody at CSX can’t see the forest for the trees!