(Burnet County, Texas – June 9, 201 2)
A 59-year-old mother and grandmother was killed about 12:50 P.M. Saturday afternoon when her Honda CRV was struck by an Austin & Western Railroad freight train at the dangerous, unguarded, limited sight distance crossing of County Road 269 (Oaks Road) and Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority railroad tracks near Bertram, TX.
Even though the crossing is equipped solely with passive railroad crossbuck signs, and has no automatic protective devices such as flashing lights, bells and gates at the intersection, Texas Dept. of Public Safety Trooper Frank Randolph told Burnet Bulletin reporter James Walker that the victim, who was driving south on CR 269 toward Highway 29, “disregarded the train’s warning whistle and the flashing warning lights at the railroad crossing.”
Susan Schmidt, who lived barely a mile from the site of the tragedy, was pronounced dead at the scene by a Seton Highland Lakes Medical Center doctor.
Trooper Randolph also told KVUE-TV, Austin, TX, that “There was no evasive maneuver, no swerving, no braking on her (Schmidt’s) part,” adding that visibility at the crossing was “20 feet in both directions at the tracks.”
Neighbors of the victim disputed claims of sufficient visibility. “Bad view,” Tom Nash told KVUE’s Erin Coker. “You almost have to be on top of it (the crossing) to see down one side (the side of the victim’s approach). Either the brush needs to clear, the trees need clearing out, or put a light up, a bar or something,” Nash continued.
The railroad tracks are the property of Austin’s CMTA, while Austin & Western Railroad, one of 26 short line and regional railroads operated by the privately-owned Watco transportation group of Pittsburg, KS, is one of two railroad entities that operate trains over the .Capital Metro tracks.