(Granville, North Dakota – September 12, 2013)
The 20-year-old driver of a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck escaped death but not injury when his vehicle was struck by a westbound Amtrak passenger train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Fifth Avenue North and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks in McHenry County about seven miles east of Granville, ND late Thursday morning.
Travis J. Smette of Granville, ND was driving south on the county gravel-surfaced road when his truck was hit and split in half, with both pieces of the totaled vehicle landing in a ditch just southwest of the crossing. Smette was transported to Trinity Hospital in Minot, ND for treatment of undisclosed, but non-life-threatening, injuries.
The crossing has no automatic, active protective devices such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates. This crossing is also obscured by heavy tree forestation at a single quadrant of the crossing – that on the northeast corner – which could easily hide the approach of a westbound train to a southbound motorist. Both BNSF 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 can gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
The BNSF/Fifth Avenue North intersection accommodates a daily average of 40 BNSF freight and Amtrak passenger trains at a top allowable timetable speed of 60 mph.