(Jefferson County, Kentucky – March 14, 2015)
In a traumatic tragedy witnessed and filmed by two railroad enthusiasts who were at the crossing taking train videos, two individuals died and two others were transported to University Hospital in Louisville, KY after their car collided with a southbound Norfolk Southern freight train at an extremely dangerous, questionably-designed grade crossing on Crawford Avenue in the Buechel area of greater Louisville, KY around 4:00 P.M. Saturday afternoon.
Railfans Anthony Collman and Logan Bennett had a video camera set up near the crossing and, in the process of pursuing their harmless hobby, inadvertently filmed the tragedy as the Union Pacific locomotive being used to power the 400,000-ton, 100-car freight train struck and virtually destroyed the white Toyota in carrying the four as-yet unidentified victims, estimated to be in their 20’s.
The crossing is an absolute design engineer’s nightmare, as the road, Crawford Avenue, becomes Buechel Bank Road just beyond the crossing, and the actual intersection of road and rail comes on the apex of a 90 degree curve as the two city streets meet and exchange identities. Buildings and heavy tree foliage, even in winter, help camouflage the crossing which, although having flashing lights and bells, is not equipped with the most critical at-grade crossing protective device of all: crossing gates!
The crossing, according to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, accommodates as many as 30 trains daily at a top allowable speed of 45 mph, and has now been the site of seven accidents – four of which have occurred since 2006, and now averaging at least one every two years – but, prior to Saturday, had victims suffering only non-fatal injury.
Witnesses Bennett and Collman spoke to a number of news media representatives who flocked to the tragic scene where pieces of the victims’ vehicle littered the railroad right-of-way. “I’m still shaking,” said Bennett. “…you see the car pull up and then ‘boom’ – this loud impact hits right in the center of the car. You can hear (brakes) screeching, glass breaking, and it was the most devastating thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he continued.
Collman told WDRB-TV, “There needs to be crossing gates because of the curvature of this road. There needs to be gates put at this crossing! Lights and horns just aren’t enough!”