(Batavia, Iowa – Aril 1, 2013)
If everything happened as witnesses reported it, all that could go wrong did. Monday afternoon just after 4:00 P.M. at the Fourth Street crossing of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks on the south side of the small Jefferson County, IA community of Batavia, IA, a railroad employee allegedly flagged a line of cars through lowered crossing gates and directly into the path of a westbound BNSF freight train. Resulting in the fatalities of two female children and seriously injuring their mother and infant brother.
Kallie Clark, 5, and Erika Clark, 4, both died at the scene after their mother, Tara L. Lewman, 25, whose vision was blocked by a standing BNSF train on the eastbound track and whose 2004 Dodge Caravan was the third northbound car reportedly flagged through the crossing by a railroad employee who obviously was also unaware of the westbound train’s approach, hidden by the stopped train.
Also injured was Lewman’s infant son, Jordan Clark, 1, and both were airlifted to The University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, IA, where they were listed in stable condition Tuesday morning.
The driver was conscious enough after the tragedy to answer questions from three Iowa State Patrol officers, a sergeant and two troopers, who responded to the accident.
It was also reported that the mother got her eldest daughter off the school bus and into the minivan for the ill-fated journey back into town. The train struck the Caravan’s passenger side, where both girls who were killed were seated.
The Fourth Street crossing is the lone grade crossing in Batavia, and accommodates an average of 40 trains, including Amtrak’s “California Zephyr”, daily at speeds as high as 79 mph. There have been two previous accidents at the crossing, resulting in a total of one fatality and two non-fatal injuries.