(Higbee, Missouri – June 13, 2013)
A 48-year-old local woman was knocked out of her vehicle and seriously injured by the force of a Kansas City Southern freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of KCS railroad tracks and South Randolph Street about 8:38 P.M. Thursday evening in Higbee, MO.
Teresa Beal was driving her 2000 Ford Contour south on South Randolph when she was struck by a train she said she never saw. The 27-car-long KCS train struck her car on the driver’s side, dragged it until it contacted a trackside signpost, rotated the car 180 degrees and then struck it again, this time ejecting the driver, who was the lone occupant.
The victim survived the collision, but was in surgery to both reconstruct her pelvis as well as attend to serious head injuries at University Hospital in Columbia where she was flown by Life Flight helicopter.
This incident happened at a dangerous, unguarded crossing. The crossing is marked only by a pair of passive, standard railroad cross-buck signs and a poorly-maintained highway “stop” sign which leans at a 45 degree angle away from the intersection. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both Kansas City Southern (KCS) 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 can gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
Beal could owe her survival to the quick response of a friend of 25 years, Dora Redifer, who was just leaving the VFW Hall, where she volunteers in meal preparation, when she saw and heard the commotion of the collision. Redifer rushed to the scene, crawling beneath the now-stopped KCS train, and finding her friend, whom she could not recognize due to her injuries. She stabilized Beal until emergency response personnel arrived, calming and assuring the victim, who was conscious during the entire ordeal. “I told her not to move and I just wanted her to blink her eyes when I needed her to respond to me,” Redifer told KRCG-TV, Channel 13 CBS Jefferson City, MO Reporter Juliette Dryer.
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Nichols told the reporter that “We’ve had train and car accidents at that crossing before, and we have had fatalities there.” The sheriff’s memory was, indeed, correct, as the crossing has experienced a total of four accidents resulting in two fatalities and two serious injuries. In fact, the worst tragedy occurred to one of Dora’s high school classmates, who was injured in 1979 in the same accident that killed her two brothers.
KRCG-TV Reporter Dryer said that “Many residents are calling for improved warning signals at the crossing, saying the stop sign is not enough.” And Dora Redifer agreed wholeheartedly. “Some kind of crossing…red lights flashing or arms, or something. There are stop signs here, but people don’t stop.”
A daily average of five KCS trains travel through Higbee at a top allowable speed of 40 mph.