(Cottondale, Alabama – February 28, 2014)
Another member of a contract crew of five men working for the Alabama Dept. of Transportation who were riding in a pickup truck January 28 and which was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Larry Noland Road near Cottondale, AL, died two Friday’s ago after two weeks in a medically-induced coma at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, AL.
The death of 58-year-old David McKenzie of Foley, AL was the third attributed to the tragedy, which occurred as snow obscured the driver’s ability to see the oncoming NS freight train, added to the fatalities of another passenger, Terrance Nahum Mickles, 39, also of Foley, AL, and the driver, Charles Kelly Meiklejohn, 57, of Gulf Shores, AL.
The crossing, which is listed as private in Federal Railroad Administration-kept and railroad-supplied grade crossing inventories, is of a public road.
Alabama State Troopers have still not identified the other two men who were hospitalized with serious injuries from the accident, which occurred at a crossing lacking any form of active protection such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, items which, if properly functioning, would certainly have helped prevent the terrible tragedy. Passive signage, which was present at the crossing, has no capability whatsoever to give motorists warning of approaching trains, especially when visibility down the tracks was severely limited.
The NS/Larry Noland Road crossing has now experienced four accidents resulting in four fatalities, according to FRA records, and is crossed by an average of 15 trains daily at a top allowable timetable speed of 60 mph.