(Kinston, North Carolina – June 10, 2014)
A 16-year-old sophomore student at LaGrange, NC North Lenoir High School was seriously injured and had to be extricated from the wreckage of his pickup truck after it was heavily damaged from being struck by a westbound Norfolk Southern freight train consisting of four locomotives pulling 53 freight cars at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of the Blizzard Building Supply Co. in Kinston, NC at about 11:30 A.M., EDT, Tuesday morning.
Riley Sasser, who also serves as a junior firefighter with the Hugo Volunteer Fire Dept., was first taken to Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston, but was then transferred via helicopter to the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC, where his condition was not released, even though officials at the scene said he appeared to be seriously injured.
The boy’s southbound truck approached the crossing, which has no active, automatic protective devices such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates, was struck and knocked down a 20-foot-deep embankment, where it landed upside-down. The victim had to be cut out of the truck’s cab.
It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both Norfolk Southern and Operation Lifesaver know 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 NS crossing accommodates a daily average of four freight trains at a maximum-allowed speed of 30 mph, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.