(Sidney, Ohio – November 10, 2013)
A 15-year-old girl was killed after her uncle’s car, in which she was a passenger, hit a CSX freight train that had been standing at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of CSX railroad tracks and South Vandemark Road in Sidney, OH at about 3:00 A.M. Sunday morning.
McKenzie Jones, 15, of Sidney, OH was pronounced dead at the scene and was taken to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, while her uncle, Frank Shields, Jr., 41, was airlifted by CareFlight helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, OH, where he was admitted in critical condition.
Only a passive railroad cross-buck sign, equipped with a reflector to show drivers that there are railroad tracks there, but the crossing has no active protection, such as flashing lights or crossing gates, which would have the ability to warn motorists that a train is either approaching or, in Sunday’s case, occupying the grade crossing. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both CSX 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 and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
Photographs taken at the scene of the tragedy show the crossing was dark and was giving the appearance that no train was present. The CSX/South Vandemark Road crossing has a daily average of 26 trains across it, while an average of over 4,250 highway vehicles cross CSX tracks there daily.
On Monday, the victim’s grandfather, Odis Day, who had raised McKenzie for most of her 15 years of life, was asking what could have been done to prevent her tragic death.
“We did everything together,” lamented Day in an interview with NBC-affiliate WDTN-TV, Channel 2 in Dayton, OH Reporter Robert Lowrey. “We loved her to death. We’ll never forget her.”