(Copiah County, Mississippi – August 26, 2014)
Two Mississippi men on their way home from work received serious injuries Tuesday afternoon at about 5:00 P.M. when the Ford Taurus they were travelling in was struck and demolished by a northbound Amtrak passenger train at the dangerous, unguarded and notorious intersection of Spitchley Road and Canadian National railroad tracks in Copiah County, MS, near Hazlehurst.
The Amtrak train, which could have been travelling as fast as 79 mph, struck the eastbound vehicle on the passenger’s side, knocking it a considerable distance from the tracks, as the train appeared from behind a heavily-leafed tree line that obscures motorists’ ability to see oncoming trains. Driver Cyrus Reese, 25, of Hazlehurst, was taken to Hardy Wilson Hospital in Hazlehurst, as was his passenger, Clint Robertson, 28, of Greenwood, MS. Emergency workers at the scene had to use the Jaws of Life to remove Robertson from the wreckage of the automobile, and he had to be subsequently airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS.
News media at the scene of the wreck, which was mistakenly identified as a non-existent Beall Road/CNR crossing (Spitchley branches off from Beall, which parallels the railroad tracks from the other side of the massive tree grove, thus misleading the news media from investigative reporting into just how dangerous the crossing has been in the past as revealed by Federal Railroad Administration records), but Copiah County Undersheriff Derrick Cubit pointed out to Reporter Bob Burks of WBLT-TV, the Fox Network affiliate in Jackson, that there is not a crossing gate or lights at the crossing.
The Spitchley Road/CNR crossing accommodates a dozen CN freight and Amtrak passenger trains daily at a top allowable speed of 79 mph, and these trains cross paths with over 300 highway vehicles each day.
At this crossing, there have been a total of 11 crossing accidents, with four of them occurring in the span of less than three months. The crossing’s statistics reveal that among the five people who have been injured in the 11 crossing collisions that have taken place there. Four of the accidents have involved Amtrak trains.
The almost unbelievable string of accidents failed to get notice from Mississippi and CN Railway officials as crying out for a critical need for active warning devices, such as lights and gates. The string of accidents began on June 7, 1983 and only a few days later, on June 23, 1983, a second collision occurred, and then a third on July 7, 1983, and finally, a fourth on August 25, 1983.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident and the numerous others could have been prevented. Canadian National, Amtrak, and Operation Lifesaver all know 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%
“We’re also told that there are no flashing light signals or barriers set up to alert drivers of an oncoming train at the location where the accident occurred, only a railroad crossing sign,” reported News Channel 12 WJTV, Jackson Journalist Candice Cole from the tragic scene.