(Sullivan, Indiana – May 31, 2013)
A 16-year-old Sullivan County, Indiana boy died Friday night at about 10:15 P.M. when the 17-year-old driver of an SUV hesitated, but then drove across the signalized, but non-gated Depot Street grade crossing of CXS railroad tracks in Sullivan, IN, only to be struck on the passenger side by a CSX freight train. A 15-year-old boy in the back seat of the SUV was thrown from the vehicle upon impact with the train.
The addition of crossing gates, intended to protect the driving public from both their own erroneous actions as well as discourage mistakes such as occurred Friday night, is a key element in the flashing lights-bells-crossing gates combination that an Association of American Railroads study released about five years ago could prevent up to 94% of accidents and deaths at railroad grade crossings.
Sullivan Police Chief Jesse Morin was still in the process of notifying relatives of the three teenagers Saturday afternoon, and therefore could not yet release any of the names of the victims.
The 16-year-old was taken to Sullivan Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead by Sullivan County Coroner Jeff Griffith. The 17 and 15-year-old youths were both transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, IN, where they were both admitted in undisclosed condition.
“We’re still investigating and talking to CSX,” said Chief Morin. “It is a great tragedy for the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” he concluded.
The accident history of the CSX/Depot Street crossing is short but serious, in that in June, 2009, the operator of a motorcycle lost his life in a collision with a CSX train there, and in October, 2007, the driver of a pickup truck accidently engaged his truck’s clutch as he awaited a CSX train to pass the Depot Street crossing, vaulting his vehicle into the train and causing him serious injury. Whether or not the existence of gates at the crossing could have prevented all three tragic accidents cannot be determined, but there is no denying that all three accidents occurred in the absence of crossing gates.