(Meridian, Mississippi – July 22, 2019)
Two local people lost their lives Monday afternoon at about 1:20 PM, as they were exiting a private drive serving a local business near the Meridian, MS Regional Airport. Deceased were 75 year-old Henry Lee Forbes and 55-year-old Tannis Utley, both of Meridian. Their vehicle was struck by Amtrak’s “Crescent” passenger train headed for a stop in Meridian on its way to New York City.
The northeast-bound Amtrak train, consisting of at least one locomotive and six coaches, was traveling in a 79 mph speed zone which is used by a daily average of 20 Norfolk Southern freight and Amtrak passenger trains.
The tragic crossing which, designated as “private.” Therefore, it was unknown when or if a warning from the train horn was even timely blown to alert the motorists of the high-speed train.
“(This is) never easy”, Lauderdale County Sheriff Billie Solie told Meridian Star Reporter Ryan Oehli. Adding that Monday’s tragedy was not the first accident to hit the railroad-navigated community. Similar collisions have occurred “in spurts,” the veteran sheriff told the newspaper writer.
The Sheriff further pointed out the lack of electronically-activated signal or crossing gates. The railroad crossing involved in this tragedy only had stop and crossbuck signs. Meanwhile, media photo footage of the area showed heavy trackside underbrush growth that may have impaired the view of the oncoming train for the driver.