(New Deal, Texas – November 18, 2014)
A 19-year-old Lubbock, TX woman was in fair condition at a Lubbock, TX hospital late Tuesday after the pickup truck she was driving toward the setting sun at about 5:00 P.M. was struck in the rear quarter panel by a southbound BNSF freight train. The driver likely neither heard nor saw the train at the dangerous, unguarded and uncharted crossing of Lubbock County Road 5400 (Franklin Street) and BNSF railroad tracks between New Deal and Abernathy, TX.
Texas Dept. of Public Safety Highway Patrol Sgt. Bryan Witt said that the force of the train threw the victim’s truck into a ditch near the tracks, and that she was taken by ground ambulance to University Medical Center, where she was admitted for treatment of undisclosed injuries.
Officials identified the victim as Francesca Moreno, and she had been upgraded to satisfactory condition by Wednesday morning, but no date of expected release was given by hospital officials.
The CR 5400/Franklin Street crossing of BNSF rails is one of a series of crossings which are not even listed on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Crossing Inventory System crossing catalogue. What is known is that the crossing has no active protection (lights, bells and gates) to actively warn drivers that trains cross the road at this point. The crossing, in the direction the motorist was traveling, has sight triangles hampered and obscured by trees and structures, and is significantly humped as it is approached from the east and west by CR 5400.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident 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%.