(Udall, Kansas – October 24, 2020)
A 60-year-old Wichita driver was killed and his 55-year-old passenger, also from Wichita, was seriously injured after their pickup truck was struck by a BNSF freight train. The pickup truck was eastbound on 82nd Road when it encountered the heavily-enshrouded with foliage and underbrush crossing of BNSF tracks and 82nd Road. The dangerous and unguarded crossing is near Udall, Kansas in Cowley County. The tragic collision occurred last Saturday morning at about 10 AM, CDT.
Killed in the collision was Mike Saengsavath. The passenger, Chomchanh Khaikham was flown to treatment at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita for serious injuries.
News media photos of the scene showed virtually no sight distance for motorists approaching the crossing due to heavy vegetation. A daily average of 10 BNSF freight trains crosses 82nd Road at an extreme and severe angle at a maximum allowable speed of 55 mph.
Despite the high-speed train usage and vegetation obscured crossing, the crossing was not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. The installation of lights and gates would have almost certainly prevented this collision as well as a prior collision that occurred there several years ago. Both 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 collisions by as much as 96%.