(Shreve, Ohio – March 9, 2014)
The dangerous, unguarded and oddly-angled grade crossing of Newkirk Road (Clinton Township Road 104) and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks claimed the life of one woman and resulted in serious injury to the female driver after the pair, journeying back to their homes in Millersburg, OH, had their 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer stuck and subsequently struck by an eastbound NS freight train before either could escape the vehicle at about 1:07 A.M. Sunday morning.
The driver, Jennifer Phillips, 32, was flown to Akron City Hospital, where she was admitted in serious condition, by Metro Life Flight helicopter, while her passenger, Raven Nicole Caskey, 31, was pronounced dead at the scene by Dr. Amy Joliff, Wayne County Coroner, who then transported the deceased victim to Wooster Community Hospital to await autopsy.
Newkirk Road parallels NS railroad tracks for a short distance before taking an abrupt right turn, crossing the tracks at about a 45 degree angle, making situations of vehicles accidentally going off the road and becoming partially stuck on the tracks, especially at night, an unfortunately understandable occurrence, primarily when a vehicle is traveling in the direction that the victims’ car was heading. The train hit the passenger’s side of the vehicle, spun it, and deposited it on the south side of the railroad right-of-way.
The intersection does not have either lights or gates which could give warning of the approach of any of the 22 trains that Federal Railroad Administration documents say cross there daily at a top timetable speed of 70 mph. 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%.
Responding to the tragic accident were the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, and Clinton Township Fire and EMS personnel.