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Teen Dies, Two Hurt at Dangerous, Unguarded UP Crossing

(Tuckerman, Arkansas – January 18, 2013)

A collision between a 2002 Chevy Avalanche and a Union Pacific freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Burton Street/Jackson County Road 1130 south of Tuckerman, AR Friday afternoon about 4:49 P.M. resulted in the death of an 18-year-old passenger and moderate-to-serious injuries to the driver and other passenger. The three victims, who were all students at Tuckerman High School, were entrapped in the vehicle’s wreckage until they could be extricated by emergency workers responding to the accident.

William Brown was pronounced dead on arrival at Harris Hospital in Newport, AR, while the driver, Cody Gates, 16, was admitted to Harris Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Another passenger, 14-year-old Donnie Stapleton, was first taken there, but was subsequently flown to Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, where he was admitted in critical condition.

The Union Pacific/CR 1130 road crossing is “protected” only by standard, passive railroad crossbuck and highway stop signs, lacking any active protective systems such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates whatsoever, even though the Federal Railroad Administration says an average of 33 trains cross that crossing daily at a maximum allowable speed of 75 mph. Friday’s was the first fatality at the intersection, but nine accidents there have now resulted in three injuries to crash victims.

The boys’ vehicle was traveling on Arkansas Highway 367, which parallels UPRR tracks less than 100 feet away, when they turned east on the county road and were struck by the northbound freight train.

Both the Arkansas State Police and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to the tragedy.