(Arlington, Texas – June 29, 2012)
A 32 year-old driver of an 18-wheeler loaded with pallets of sod was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries late Friday afternoon when the tractor was torn from the trailer, wedged beneath the locomotive, and dragged some 300 feet, with the driver still inside, by Amtrak’s San Antonio, TX-bound Texas Eagle passenger train at a dangerous, unguarded private Union Pacific Railroad crossing in west Arlington, TX.
Raan Hunter of Kennedale, TX was flown by helicopter to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, TX where he is being treated for multiple injuries, including a severe head injury, a broken left leg, a lacerated liver, broken ribs, a broken sternum, and numerous bruises and internal injuries. Hunter’s wife, Megan, said her husband was still in critical condition and unresponsive Saturday. The couple is raising six children, ages 11 through 17.
The crossing is equipped with only minimum passive signage and completely lacks any form of automatic protective devices such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates. The crossing accesses the popular Howell Farms Banquet Center, a wedding and special events center which is no stranger to railroad-related problems.
Last October, a Union Pacific train crew disregarded a red signal and ran their freight train into the rear of a standing train, derailing and damaging three locomotives and five rail cars. This blocked access to the Howell Farms facility and trapped an estimated 600 attendees at a charity fund-raising event.
Then, on February 17, another UP freight train derailed a number of tank cars loaded with corn syrup just a few blocks from Arlington’s City Hall, effectively shutting down Friday evening rush-hour traffic and disrupting weekend activities in the city’s popular entertainment district.
The October and February incident could have been prevented, had a federal government-mandated, satellite-based safety system, Positive Train Control, designed to override situations in which train collisions are imminent, but which was delayed through railroad lobbying to Congress to a 2020 activation.
According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, the crossing accommodates two dozen trains, including Amtrak, at speeds of up to 79 mph, and has experienced two previous collisions, one involving Amtrak and the other an encounter with a UPRR train.