(Shepherd, Texas – June 11, 2014)
A 60-year-old local resident was killed Wednesday afternoon at about 3:50 P.M. by a southbound Union Pacific freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of UPRR tracks and Yeager Lane between Cleveland and Shepherd, TX.
Johnny Ray Hall of Shepherd was killed at a crossing that not only had no active warning devices, such as lights and bells, but is also listed on Federal Railroad Administration records as “private” and therefore not even subject to rules that require trains to sound their horns as they approach grade crossings.
It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both Union Pacific 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%.
The victim had just exited U.S. Highway 59, a four-lane highway that parallels UP railroad tracks which carry a daily average of between 10 and 12 trains at a top allowable speed of 49 mph, and almost immediately came upon the single-lane crossing.
FRA records also tell of the crossing’s sordid history of past accidents, with Wednesday’s tragedy having been the first fatal incident out of a total of four total collisions. However, the earlier three crashes counted four non-fatal injuries among the statistics.
Emphasizing the devastating mental effect upon the train crew of being involved in the tragedy, UP Spokeswoman Elizabeth Hutchinson explained that “The train crew was not injured and is being extended assistance through our Peer Support Program.”