(Crockett, Texas – August 31, 2015)
Two people, one a pregnant 28-year-old female, were seriously injured Monday afternoon at the dangerous, unguarded and foliage-obscured Houston County crossing of County Road 3450 and Union Pacific Railroad tracks about eight miles south of Crockett, TX. The motorists eastbound Ford 250 pickup truck was struck on the passenger side, thrown over 100 feet from the point of impact, and overturned with both occupants still inside.
The driver, Son Viet Vu, also 28, was driving when the northbound UPRR freight train struck the side of the truck in which Sophia Hoang was riding, and although both occupants, who are residents of Gause, TX, received critical injuries, both victims were flown to CHI St. Luke’s Medical Center in The Woodlands, TX. Officials expressed concern for the condition of Hoang’s unborn child.
Crocket Fire Chief John Angerstein pointed out that the crossing was not equipped with any form of active warning devices, such as crossing gates and flashing lights. Meanwhile, KTRE-TV Channel 9 news reporter Caleb Beames said that an 18-wheeler had been struck by another Union Pacific train at the same crossing “a few weeks ago.” Since no record of the crash was found in the Federal Railroad Administration’s crossing inventory and accident system, it is clear the railroad has yet to file a report on the earlier collision.
Houston County Road 3450 approaches an intersection with State Highway 19, which parallels the railroad tracks only a few feet east of the grade crossing, through a heavy windbreak of tall, mature trees that line the west side of UPRR tracks. The tracks carry as many as 31 UP freight trains that are allowed to travel at a top speed of 60 mph. This visual obstruction makes sight distance for eastbound drivers very difficult to see trains in either direction.
It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident one would not have happened. Both Union Pacific 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 accidents by as much as 96%.