(Box Elder, South Dakota — September 4, 2014)
A local woman, attempting to cross Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Cottonwood Drive and CPR tracks, was killed at about 10:42 last Thursday morning when a westbound CP freight train struck her southbound 2003 Oldsmobile Alero on the driver’s side, dragged the automobile for a short distance, and then pushed the totaled vehicle into a nearby field.
Monica G. Westin, 52, of Box Elder, SD, was pronounced dead at the scene after her seat belt, which law enforcement officials confirmed was in proper use at the time of the crash, was ripped from its housing by the force of the train.
The crossing does not have any active protection, such as lights and gates to give motorists warning of the approach of one of the four CP trains which cross there daily at a maximum speed of 40 mph. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both Canadian Pacific and Operation Lifesaver all 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%
Investigating the fatality were the South Dakota Highway Patrol, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, Box Elder Police Dept. and Rapid City Police.