(Newberry Township, Pennsylvania – July 5, 2014)
An adult female, part of a group of three people headed for a family gathering at a recreational site on the Susquehanna River in York County, PA, was killed when the passenger side of the red Mitsubishi Outlander in which the trio was riding was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern freight train as they tried to cross at the dangerous, unguarded and partially brush-obscured private crossing in the 1100 block of Cly Road at about 4:53 P.M. EDT Saturday afternoon.
Pronounced dead at the scene was Cori Elizabeth Sisti, 23, of Mechanicsburg, PA. Meanwhile, the victims’ female child, believed to be about two years of age, was alert and conscious when carried from the car. York County Coroner Claude Stabley has scheduled an autopsy on the deceased for Monday at the Lehigh Valley Hospital.
It was confirmed that the male driver, Akim Jones-Williams and the female passenger (Sisti) were the parents of the child. They were all from the Mechanicsburg, PA area.
Jones-Williams was airlifted to York (PA)Hospital, while the two-year-old girl was taken by helicopter to the Penn State Medical Center in Hershey, PA. Both were admitted in critical condition.
The auto was southbound on Cly Road, which closely parallels the NS tracks, and then turned left across the tracks and toward the river. Although there was verbal confirmation that the train’s horn was blown, it was not determined how far in advance of the collision, or even after, that it was blown. Not only do northbound trains emerge from fully-grown underbrush, but, as a private crossing, the intersection does not carry the federal requirement that advance warning be sounded.
A previously mentioned, the crossing is not equipped with any active warning devices such as lights and gates that could warn motorists of approaching trains, such as Saturday’s, which was traveling from Lancaster to Harrisburg, PA, hauling 45 empty freight cars. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this tragedy. 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%
No records of any previous collisions at the grade crossing were found, but it is known to be crossed by two dozen NS freight trains daily at a top allowable speed of 50 mph.