(Corning, Arkansas – August 17, 2018)
Two 17-year-old teenagers just starting their senior year at Corning High School, died Friday afternoon at about 4:04 PM, CDT when their eastbound 2001 Chevrolet pickup truck was hit by a northbound Union Pacific freight train. The collision occurred at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Clay County Road 154. The entire community is united in an outpouring of grief for the victims and their families.
The victims of the tragedy, Rachel Ballard of Corning, AR and Bethany Stormes of Knobel, AR, were student activity leaders at Corning HS. The train struck the pickup on the passenger side, with the truck overturning and being cast aside to the east of the Union Pacific single track.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Troop “C” of the Arkansas State Police were both conducting the investigation of the horrible tragedy.
Even though a daily average of 20 Union Pacific freight trains traverse CR 154 at a maximum permissible speed of 75 mph, there are no active warning devices at the crossing. In addition, there have been three prior collisions between trains and highway vehicles which resulted in two injuries. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision and the three before it would not have happened. Both Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver all 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 accidents by as much as 96%.
The victims’ were taken to the Ermert Funeral Home in Corning.