(Saraland, Alabama – April 1, 2016)
Two employees of Advanced Disposal Company were hospitalized last Friday afternoon shortly after 2:00 P.M., EDT after the garbage truck one was driving was struck, overturned and virtually destroyed by a Norfolk Southern freight train. The collision occurred at the dangerous, unguarded and heavily-obscured crossing of Ferry Avenue and NS railroad tracks in the Alabama community of Saraland. News media sources were fielding concerns from area residents over safety matters.
“Nearby residents say it’s a dangerous intersection,” reported Fox 10 News Reporter Christian Jennings. “The crossing has stop signs but no crossing arms.” Meanwhile, video footage from several TV stations revealed heavy tree forestation creating an extremely difficult line of sight and sight triangle for motorists approaching the crossing. The crossing accommodates half dozen NS freight trains that travel through the crossing daily at a top allowable speed of 49 mph.
Further compounding the problem is the fact that the crossing lacks any form of active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Both NS 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%.
The unidentified driver was airlifted to the University Of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile, AL, while the passenger was taken by ground ambulance to a local hospital.
Local residents of a cross-track subdivision who must use Ferry Avenue for the sole access to and from their homes were not happy. “I just think that it is really bad that the railroad does not have the arms and the flashing lights,” resident Rachel Dickson told Channel 5’s Jacqueline Quyah, pointing out that the crossing is used by four school buses every school day, and that, while it is not only the sole access road to their homes, adjacent crossings are equipped with crossing gates and flashing lights.
Another resident, Jessica Taylor, told WALA-TV that the accident “sounded like a bomb. It rattled mine and my mom’s house. We live on the road right up from the railroad tracks and we heard it when it went off right here at the entrance, but it took a minute to stop.”
Scattered trash from the fully-loaded refuse truck was scattered for yards along the railroad tracks. “I heard a screech like it (the train) was trying to put on the brakes, like it was trying to avoid it,” recalled witness John Prentice, another resident of the subdivision. “Then a big thud. That was it!”
Federal Railroad Administration records say that Friday’s crash was the fifth to occur at the Ferry Avenue/NS Railway intersection, and the second to result in injury to crossing users.