(Walcott, North Dakota – March 13, 2014)
A North Dakota woman escaped with her life Thursday morning at about 9:30 A.M. when the vehicle she was driving was struck by a Red River Valley & Western freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of 63rd Street SE and RRV&W railroad tracks about five miles south of Walcott, ND.
The proper wearing of her seat belt likely saved the motorist, Jordan Blazek, 21, of Wyndmere, ND, from certain death, but not from injury, as she was taken by ambulance to Essentia Medical Center in Fargo, ND for treatment of undetermined, but not life-threatening, injuries.
The former Burlington Northern right-of-way, which now has been owned and operated by the RRV&W railroad as part of its 577-mile rail system for over 25 years, crosses 63rd Street SE at 60 to 120 degree angles, making trains approaching from certain directions difficult for motorists to see coming. The crossing does not have any active protective systems such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, all of which can give warning of approaching RRV&W trains.
It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both RRV&W 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%.