(Pawnee County, Oklahoma – May 8, 2013)
A 60-year-old Edmond, OK man, driving an 18-wheeler with an empty low-boy trailer attached, was violently killed early Wednesday afternoon at about 12:44 P.M. when his rig was struck, dragged about a half mile, and erupted into a fiery blaze at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of County Road N3430 (Lela Road) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks in Pawnee County, OK, about seven miles west of the city of Pawnee, OK, near the intersection of State Highways 64 and 108.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers said Richard Knight, Jr., was making a wide right turn from a private drive onto the Pawnee County Road and appears to have never seen the approaching train, which BNSF sources said was travelling from Tulsa, OK to Enid, OK at 49 mph. The 2013 Mack truck tractor was impaled upon the nose of the locomotive and erupted into flame as the train came to a halt about 2,700 feet west of the crossing, which has only passive signage and lacks any of the active protection systems, like flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, which an Association of American Railroads study five years ago claimed could eliminate 93% of accidents and resultant deaths at railroad grade crossings.
The victim’s body was trapped inside the heavily damaged truck’s cab for 90 minutes before being extricated and pronounced dead at the scene.
Besides OHP troopers, response came from the Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office, the Pawnee, Pawnee Nation, Morrison and Glencoe fire departments, and Pawnee Ambulance Service.
BNSF officials also said the lead locomotive of the train was equipped with a nose video camera “so the company will review the footage for the investigation. Obviously, the myriad of area law enforcement agencies will not be getting invitations to the viewing.