(Eaton, Colorado – February 6, 2018)
A second teen driver tragically died in less than a year late Tuesday afternoon about 6 PM, MST in the Weld County, CO community of Eaton. An 18-year-old senior at Eaton High School lost her life as she attempted to cross Union Pacific Railroad tracks westbound, only to have her SUV struck by a southbound freight train. The collision occurred at the same dangerous and unguarded 5th Street crossing where one of her classmates died less than a year ago.
In the ninth collision between trains and motor vehicles, Kennedi Ingram became the second fatality to occur at the crossing. The victim was doubtfully even aware of the oncoming train until too late to take evasive action. Despite these prior eight collisions, there are no active warning devices, such as lights and gates, at the crossing which accommodates an average of 14 UPRR trains an day at a maximum speeds of 60 mph. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision and the eight before it would not have occurred. Both the Union Pacific 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%.
The death of the member of last fall’s Colorado State Champion volleyball team was made even more tragic – and equally preventable – as Town Manager Gary Carsten reported to KKTV, Channel 11 in Colorado Springs, that the Colorado Public Utilities Commission had approved a project over the summer to allow for installation and activation of such lifesaving devices. “The crossing gates are scheduled for construction later this year,” Carsten told a Channel 11 reporter.
Until the lights and gates are installed, Eaton Mayor Kevin Ross announced that the extremely hazardous crossing will be closed until Union Pacific installs lights and gates. Department of Transportation funds were diverted from another project after a petition was signed by more than 100 reside calling on Union Pacific, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to quickly install safety improvements at this crossing. It is unclear if Union Pacific will contribute any money to the installation of these necessary protective devices at this dangerous, unprotected crossing.
A makeshift memorial still stands at the crossing, commemorating the death of 16-year-old Dallas Duran in another collision between his vehicle and a UPRR train on February 22, 2017.
Two non-fatal injuries were also among the Fifth Street UP crossing’s negative statistics.