(Isabella County, Michigan – October 10, 2011)
A 2006 GMC Envoy, driven by Heather Lee Foster, 20, of Rosebush, MI, along with her passenger, Levi Light, 20, of Mount Pleasant, MI, was struck and demolished by a Great Lakes Central Railroad freight train consisting of two locomotives hauling seven cars at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Denver Road in Isabella County, MI Monday night just before 9:00 P.M.
The vehicle was carried down the tracks about a fifth of a mile before the train came to a stop. Their vehicle was westbound on Denver Road, and the train caught the car at its driver’s side midsection, severely injuring the driver, who was airlifted to Hurley Medical Center in Flint, MI, in critical but stable condition.
Her passenger, meanwhile, was taken to the Central Michigan Community Hospital, but then flown to Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, MI, where he was treated and later released.
The GLCRR/Denver Road crossing has only standard railroad crossbuck signs, with highway “yield” signs attached to each post, and no electronic (lights, bells or gates) protection for motorists. The tragedy within a tragedy, however, was created when the first witnesses on the scene were Beverly House and her husband, who live just west of the crossing.
“We were coming home and I looked down the tracks and all we could see was orange,” she recalled. “There was a young man (Light) yelling ‘help, help, help.” Beverly House is well familiar with – and fearful of – the crossing.
It was 17 years ago – August 7, 1994 – when her nephew, John Phillip House, then 30 years old, was seriously injured when a freight train hit his pickup truck at the same crossing. House lay in a coma for nearly two years before dying without ever regaining consciousness.
Since the tragedy, Beverly House has been complaining to Isabella County officials for better crossing protection at Denver Road. She notes that other area crossings, including Vernon Road one mile north, are at least marked with stop signs. Tuesday morning, she was once again on the phone to the Isabella County Road Commission.
“It’s time they do something there,” said House. “That yield sign needs to be replaced!”