(Elton, Louisiana – February 19, 2013)
Three people, including a three-year-old child, were hospitalized Tuesday morning from injuries they received in a collision with a westbound Union Pacific freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of UPRR rails and Liberty Cemetery Road a few miles west of Elton, LA in Jefferson Davis Parish.
Pamela Thompson, 32, was driving north on Liberty Cemetery Road about 7:37 A.M. in her 2000 Ford Expedition SUV when she crossed paths with the train at the crossing, which has only standard, passive railroad crossbuck signs as “protection” from the daily average of 10 trains which cross there at a maximum timetable speed of 60 mph, and has no active protective systems such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates. Heavy, dense groves of trees surround the crossing as the UP railroad line parallels U.S. Highway 190, separated by just a few feet.
Thompson’s passengers, Jennifer Gentry, 26, and the three-year-old whose name as well as relationship to either of the two women was not determined, were from Elton as was the driver. All three were transported to a local hospital, where they were admitted with moderate injuries.
Louisiana State Police said the driver saw the train too late, stopped, and attempted to back off the tracks when her vehicle was struck on the passenger side. She was subsequently charged with failure to yield to a train, failure to wear a seatbelt, and for having no child restraint.
The impact knocked the SUV 104 feet onto a grassy area near the tracks, while the train finally came to a stop about four tenths of a mile beyond the crossing.
The UPRR line carries an average of 10 freight trains daily at a top allowable speed of 60 mph.