(Kelso, Washington – October 27, 2017)
A Washington state couple, died Friday morning at about 9:30 A.M., PDT at the- dangerous, deadly and unguarded entrance road into the Horseshoe Bend Estates community, about 7 ½ miles north of Kelso, WA.
The vehicle in which the two victims were traveling was following another vehicle, as the first vehicle was being driven by the mother of one of the deceased couple. However, a KPTV story said that “Investigators said the driver of the second car seemed not to notice the oncoming train.” The crossing where the collision took place is designated as “private”, and as such, there is no Federal Railroad Administration crossing approach rule that requires trains use the train horn. In addition, the Horseshoe Estates crossing has neither crossing gates, flashing lights nor bells to give an active warning of the approach of trains. During an average day, FRA railroad crossing statistics say that 52 Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Amtrak trains traverse the double track intersection at a maximum allowable speed of 79 mph.
It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision would not have occurred. Amtrak, 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 accidents by as much as 96%.
The driver of the second car was identified as Gildardo Cru Vera Strickler, 29, of Kelso, WA, while his passenger was Sonya Sussanna Wallace, 32, of Longview, WA. It was Wallace’s mother who was driving the first car and witnessed the tragic accident in which the Seattle-bound train with 200 passengers on board struck the victims’ car.
Why there were no active warning devices at this unguarded, high speed and frequently used train route is unfathomable. A collision took place at that same crossing on January 12, 2015. That prior collision took the life of a 26-year-old female motorist in a collision with a BNSF freight train. Appropriate safety devices at the crossing is the responsibility of BNSF.