(Crestview, Florida – September 21, 2013)
The grade crossing of Rosebud Avenue and CSX railroad tracks in Crestview, FL was not equipped with active protection such as flashing lights and gates, and one approach to the intersection was blocked on both sides with heavy tree foliage. This accident could have been prevented by installation of lights and gates. Both CSX and Operation Lifesaver know 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 can gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
The three occupants of a 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche were all injured when the driver of a combination SUV/pickup truck hauling a trailer could not see an approaching train – one whose impending arrival at the intersection could not be announced due to the sole presence of standard, passive railroad crossbuck and highway stop signs at the crossing – Saturday morning at about 9:00 A.M. The driver was deemed at fault by the Florida Highway Patrol for various and sundry charges, clearly encouraged through education by railroad police agencies who preach that it is NEVER the railroad’s fault when train and highway vehicle collide.
The driver, Uriel Paredes-Rodriguez, 25, of Freeport, FL received insult to his injuries when he was ticketed, not only for failure to stop for a train, but also for one of his passengers – Manuel Rodriguez, 16, of Santa Rosa Beach, FL – not wearing a seatbelt (the charge was for the driver’s failure to properly secure the under-18-year-old teenager).
The westbound CSX train struck the rear quarter-panel of the truck as it was being driven north on Rosebud Avenue, ripping the trailer loose, and overturning the Avalanche, ejecting the lone unbelted passenger, who was taken to North Okaloosa Medical Center where he was admitted in serious condition. Both the driver, Paredes-Rodriguez, and another passenger, Jose Maldonado, 26, of Santa Rosa Beach, FL, were taken to the same hospital for attention to their various, undisclosed injuries.
The train’s speed was not determined, but the maximum allowable speed at that crossing is 49 mph.