(Stilwell, Kansas – October 10, 2020)
UPDATED: October 12, 2020
Three Kansans were killed and a fourth was taken to an undisclosed hospital after their Jeep was broadsided by a Union Pacific train at an unguarded private railroad crossing near the 16600 block of Mission Road in the Johnson County, Kansas community of Stilwell. The collision occurred at about 6:37 PM, CDT Saturday evening.
All four victims were parents of students enrolled at Blue River Elementary School in the Blue Valley School District. The fatalities included Brent Moroney, Kevin Corbin and Troy Hamlin, while the fourth occupant of the Jeep was Chance Adams, who was undergoing critical surgery at an area hospital. Patrons at the school and within the suburban school district which serves the south Overland Park, east Olathe, south Leawood, Stanley and Stilwell communities, are devastated at the loss of the highly supportive parents. The victims’ ages were not listed and it was not yet known who was driving the vehicle involved in the tragedy.
Union Pacific operates a daily average of 26 freight trains through the former Missouri Pacific rail corridor at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph. Despite the high-speed and frequent freight train usage, the crossing had neither flashing lights nor crossing gates. It is almost certain the installation of lights and gates would have prevented this collision. Both Union Pacific 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 collisions by as much as 96%.
Moreover, it is not known when or if the Union Pacific freight train sounded its horn as Union Pacific does not always sound its train horn at private crossings. If the horn was not blown or not timely blown, the failure to sound the horn was likely another factor contributing to cause this collision.
As mentioned, the crossing is on private property owned by Bob Kenney, 69, of Leawood. Kenney told Kansas City Star Reporter Anna Spoerre that, although the land was posted with a sign warning against trespassing, he knew that “unauthorized visitors frequently drive or walk onto the land, which includes a gravel road and a field.” The landowner further extended his condolences to the victims’ families stating “Its terrible” of the tragedy.