(Montgomery, Pennsylvania – August 15, 2014)
A tragic train/pickup truck collision at the dangerous and unguarded of Norfolk Southern rails and Brick Church Road cost the lives of two construction workers as they were returning to the job after the lunch break Friday afternoon at about 1:30 P.M. near Montgomery, PA. Thee United Rentals vehicle they were in was struck by a NS coal train headed for a Washington, PA power plant.
Both victims, identified as driver Howard Martin Jr., 46, of Covina, CA, and his passenger, Darren Ziemer, 49, of Bayard, NE were employees of the Griffith Company of California, which is constructing a new natural gas-fired power plant for Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. on the opposite side of the tracks. Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr. said that Ziemer was pronounced dead at the scene, while Martin was airlifted to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA, where he died at 1:55 P.M.
The NS/Brick Church Road grade crossing has no active warning systems such as flashing lights, crossing gates and bells, items which would both have made the driver aware of the oncoming train as well as undoubtedly prevented the tragedy. Both Norfolk Southern and Operation Lifesaver 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%.
While documents on file with the Federal Railroad Administration claim that only a pair of NS trains cross Brick Church Road daily at a top timetable speed of 50 mph, it only takes one train and one unsuspecting driver to equal a tragedy such as occurred Friday.
In fact, railroad and government authorities were given a “wake-up call” almost exactly two years ago, when another NS train struck a motorist at the NS/Brick Church Road intersection in a non-injury accident the morning of July 20, 2012. Nothing was done to abate the hazard, and on Friday the worst-case scenario occurred.