(Cleveland, North Carolina – September 23, 2013)
The driver of an 18-wheeler semi-trailer dump truck was airlifted to a Winston-Salem, NC hospital Monday afternoon when the truck he was driving was struck, heavily damaged and left on its side some distance from the impact with a Norfolk Southern freight train at the notorious, dangerous and unguarded crossing of SWP’s entrance road and NS railroad tracks at about 3:49 P.M. The truck driver was returning to his employer, J&H Clearing and Grading, in Statesville, NC from a delivery of materials to the Shaver Wood Products facility just outside of Cleveland, NC.
Harl Hercules Brown, 52, of Statesville, NC became the third serious injury suffered in a half-dozen collisions between NS freight trains and highway vehicles, all but one of them involving 18-wheelers, at the private crossing leading from Statesville Boulevard into the Shaver Wood Products plant.
With that kind of record, one might reason that the crossing, currently only has passive railroad cross-buck and highway stop signs, neither of which have any capability to give motorists a clue that a train is approaching. 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 can gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
Not only was the victim flown by helicopter to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, but he was given a citation by a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper for “failure to yield at a crossing.”
According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, the private crossing, for which the FRA does not have a regulation requiring the train crew to whistle as their train approaches, sees a daily average of two dozen NS freight trains at a top allowable speed of 45 mph.