(Bealeton, Virginia – October 16, 2017)
A 19-year-old local man became the second person to lose his life at a dangerous, unguarded and deadly unguarded Virginia private crossing Monday evening about 6:15 P.M., EDT. The driver turned his northbound 2006 Chevrolet SUV off of Remington Road (Highway 656) and crossed the private/industrial crossing when he was struck by a southbound Amtrak train in Bealeton, VA.,
Virginia State Police identified the victim as Hunter James Costello, who was declared dead at the scene.
Costello may never have been aware of the oncoming train, one of 28 Norfolk Southern and Amtrak trains that cross daily at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph, as not only were there no automatic signaling devices such as flashing lights, gates or bells, but Federal Railroad Administration crossing approach rules do not require the sounding of the locomotive horn as trains bear down upon crossings designated as “private”.Thus, it was not determined when, if at all, train crew aboard the Lynchburg, VA-bound train blew its warning horn.
It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision and the eight before it would not have occurred. Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, 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%.
A collision at the same crossing took the life of another motorist in November of 2012. Interestingly, the accident report on that collision listed the train’s speed as 78 mph, 18 mph faster than the current maximum speed listed on the FRA report.
The Amtrak train, which had 273 passengers on board, had emanated from New York City.