(Wabbaseka, Arkansas – July 27, 2017)
Two passengers in a Chevrolet Cruse died in a horrible accident at the extremely dangerous and unguarded crossing of South First Street and Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The driver survived and was transported by air to a hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. The unguarded crossing is located in the small Jefferson County, AR community of Wabbaseka. The collision took place last Thursday afternoon about 1:23 P.M., CDT.
The tragedy marked the eighth accident at the crossing. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette commented “the intersection has no crossing bar and no lights, only a stop sign (and railroad cross-buck signs) about four train-car lengths from where trees shroud the tracks.”
Killed in Thursday’s tragedy were Shamri Cole-Cox, 27, and Talisa Cannon, 28, who were riding in the blue Chevy driven by Genesis Dendy, 31, who is now in critical condition at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. All three victims were from Altheimer, AR. The vehicle all three were in was shoved by the 110-car train powered by two locomotives about 1,537 feet beyond the crossing to the signalized crossing of Paw Paw Street.
The accident occurred at a notorious crossing where daily averages of 20 Union Pacific trains cross at maximum allowable speeds of 70 mph. The most recent fatality was in February of last year. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision and the eight before it would not have occurred. 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%.
At the tragic scene Wabbaseka Assistant Mayor and Jefferson County Justice of the Peace Edward Spears observed that the town council would undoubtedly file another resolution for flashing lights and crossing gates at the South First crossing. “I just feel a sense of obligation”, said Spears. “That’s the biggest problem we have in this community. There has to be an urgent need, an urgent cry!”