(Oklaunion, Texas November 30, 2016)
A 58-year-old resident of Vernon, TX died at Wilbarger County Hospital just after noon Wednesday after his SUV was struck and overturned by a BNSF freight train at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of County Road 111 and BNSF railroad tracks near Oklaunion, TX.
Hector Manuel Aleman was approaching the multi-lane U.S. Highway 287 and CR 111 when he attempted to drive his Suburban westbound across the single-track BNSF rail line. The crossing accommodates a daily average of 30 trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph.
CR 111 approaches the crossing at a 60 degree angle, making sight distance from the drivers side obscured by the angular approach. He was rushed to Wilbarger County Hospital in Vernon, TX, but passed away from his accidental injuries after his admission.
Despite the high number and speed of the trains passing over the grade crossing, there are no flashing lights or crossing gates to prevent tragedies such as Wednesdays. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver 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%.
Officers of the Texas Dept. of Public Safety Highway Patrol were investigating the accident.