(Gila Bend, Arizona – May 13, 2011)
It was the Union Pacific Railroad crossing of Paloma Road and Ranch Road nine miles west of Gila Bend, AZ which claimed the lives of two U.S. Border Patrol agents Thursday. The crossing was allegedly a private crossing but had an accident history of 6 crashes and one fatality since 1984. The dangerous, unguarded crossing still had no lights, bells or gates to warn motorists of approaching trains.
USBP Agents Hector Clark and Eduardo Rojas Jr. were helping other agents surround a group of illegal alien drug traffickers who were caught and arrested with 316 pounds of marijuana bales in their possession just prior to the tragic accident.
“When the arrest was made behind them, Rojas and Clark were informed of the result, and that’s when they began heading south,” said Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Detective Aaron Douglas. “They made a left and began to head across the tracks. They were about to call it a day.” That was when the black, unmarked (but equipped with police lights) SUV was struck by a westbound UPRR train consisting of three locomotives, 75 freight cars, weighing 4,684 tons and travelling at 62 mph.
Detective Douglas suspects the early morning sun’s glare and the environment inside the vehicle may have contributed to the accident. “They didn’t even see the train coming,” Douglas said. “And when you have radios inside the vehicle and the windows up, it may have been difficult to hear the train’s whistle,” he concluded.