(Bainbridge, Pennsylvania – March 27, 2015)
An 85-year-old Marietta, PA driver, just leaving the Koser Park boat launch in Bainbridge, PA, had to be extricated from his demolished pickup truck after it was struck by a 99-car-long Bakken oil train just before 1:30 P.M., EDT at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Race Street and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
Eyewitness and Conoy Township Supervisor Stephen Mohr said that he and the victim, Clark “Red” Arnold, had just been talking a few minutes earlier, and was forced to watch his friend drive into the path of the train “He just didn’t hear,” said Arnold as the NS train “got to the intersection at about the same time. When he did see the train, he panicked and stopped on the tracks.”
“You’re helpless,” lamented the Township Supervisor. “I knew it was going to happen before it happened, but there’s nothing you can do.”
This crossing does not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates, to warn motorists of any of the 18 daily trains that use the Race Street crossing at a top speed of 50 mph. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both Norfolk Southern 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%.
Mohr told Staff Writer Tom Knapp of the Lancaster Online news service that “It (the collision) was pretty serious. He took a beating…They had to take the vehicle apart to free him.”
Bainbridge Fire Dept. Captain Leonard Crater said that the victim “…was unaware of the train coming,” and statements from other witnesses agreed that they “didn’t think he was trying to beat the train,” according to Capt. Crater.
Arnold was taken to Penn State Medical Center in Hershey, PA, where he was admitted in critical condition.
Fortunately, the tank cars on the oil train, which was headed north toward Harrisburg, PA, were empty. According to Lancaster Online’s Knapp, “Local, state and federal officials have expressed concerns about explosive Bakken crude oil being transported by train after several recent derailments,” adding that “Oil trains, often pulling more than 100 tanker cars, roll through the 35 miles of Lancaster County along the Susquehanna River up to 16 times a week.”