(Piketon, Ohio – June 17, 2016)
Two more tragic deaths were suffered at a dangerous and unguarded Ohio road/rail crossing Friday afternoon at about 3:20 P.M., EDT. A mother driving her 2001 Ford Ranger pickup truck with her daughter and another adult female as passengers was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train at the 400 River Road/Norfolk Southern Railway intersection in Piketon, OH. The train was one of the daily average of two dozen NS freight trains that cross there daily at a maximum speed of 60 mph.
The double-track, main line, reportedly private crossing, is not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates, despite the prior six collisions between trains and highway vehicles, through which three deaths and three non-fatal injuries. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision and the six before it would not have happened. Both Norfolk Southern 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%.
Deceased at the scene was 67-year-old Brenda S. Hanshaw, whose relationship, if any, to the other two victims was not determined, while 3-year-old Brenda Holschuch was pronounced deceased shortly after her arrival at Adena Pike Hospital.
Meanwhile, the driver, Cassandra Dee Blankenship, 40, was flown to the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus where she was listed in stable condition. All three victims had to be extricated from the demolished vehicle by firefighters and first responders.
The northbound NS train consisting of 81 hopper cars loaded with coal struck the black Ford Ranger on the passenger’s side.
Investigating the tragedy were troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and officers from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office and both the Waverly and Piketon Police Depts., as well as Pike County Coroner Dave Kessler.