(Bartlett, Texas – November 25, 2014)
The unfortunate driver of a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck was pronounced dead at the scene after the truck was struck by Amtrak’s San Antonio-to-Chicago “Texas Eagle” train at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Union Pacific rails and Williamson County, TX Road 387 just outside of Bartlett, TX at about 12:50 P.M., CST Tuesday afternoon.
The victim was identified as Donald Patrick Turner, 54, of Corpus Christi, TX. The truck caught fire on impact and scattered debris over a long path as the train took a considerable distance to come to a halt. The fire damaged the locomotive and ignited a grass fire in a field near the tracks. The CR 387 crossing of UPRR tracks has no active crossing protection like lights, bells and gates, which can inform a motorist of the approach of one of the 16 daily trains that cross there at speeds as high as 70 mph.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Amtrak, Union Pacific, and Operation Lifesaver all know that 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%.
None of the 239 passengers aboard the eastbound train were injured, but Texas State Highway 95, which parallels the UPRR tracks, was shut down for several hours while Texas Dept. of Public Safety troopers and Williamson County Sheriff’s Dept. officers conducted their investigation into the fatality.
Inconvenience was far from the concerns of many of the passengers who witnessed the tragedy and its aftermath. Pamela Willis, who was traveling from California to see her sister in Temple, TX for the Holidays, expressed her sympathies to a TV reporter from KXAN Channel 36, the NBC affiliate in Austin, TX. “I wanted to help that person, because I know they didn’t make it,” she said of the victim. “I also feel for their family because I’ve had loss in my family. I’m just like ‘God, help them,” she concluded.
Another unidentified passenger told Austin Fox Channel 7 that “I’m sure if you’re a passenger on a train and it hit a truck going across the railroad tracks that it would be traumatic for every one of them.”