(Harrisburg, South Dakota—December 8, 2022)
On Wednesday, December 8, 2022 a 45-year-old woman and 12-year-old girl were killed and the 44-year-old man who was driving the pickup was seriously injured at a dangerous, unguarded BNSF Railway crossing. The only survivor was airlifted to Sioux Falls with life-threatening injuries. The collision occurred in Lincoln County just south of Harrisburg as the pickup was driving west on 274th Street just before sunset. The setting sun may have contributed to the motorist’s inability to timely see the train.
According to reports, the BNSF train was coming from the north and according to Lincoln County Emergency Manager Harold Timmerman, the train may have been partially blocked by a small hill. Timmerman also stated, “We’d like to ask people to be very careful and aware of where that train might be. Some places there could be a blind spot that could block it.”
The BNSF crossing where this collision occurred did not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. BNSF submitted records reveal that trains typically travel over this crossing at 40 mph. There has also been one prior collision. It is virtually certain that the addition of lights and gates could have prevented this tragedy. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver 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 collisions by as much as 96%.