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News is breaking out of Colorado yesterday about a collision between a westbound Amtrak train (the Southwest Chief, heading from Chicago to Los Angeles) and a Chrysler Town and Country minivan at an at-grade railroad crossing. As I’ve been reading the coverage, the accident happened on Las Animas County Road 75, about 3 miles north of Trinidad, Colorado. Inside the minivan was a husband and wife and their 4 children. 5 of the occupants were killed while a 4 year old girl was injured and is currently in stable condition.
If you look at the Google Maps satellite view, if I am reading the coverage correctly, the crossing is on a rural road with no gate or any other visible barrier. According to the Denver Post, the railroad crossing is the site of at least 6 crossing incidents since 1986 and was “awaiting improvements”
There is also discussion over at the Amtrak Unlimited forums, including reports from a few people that were on the train. Nobody on the train was injured.
Stop… look…. listen
I was actually thinking about this a few weeks ago when I was doing some research at Operation Lifesaver about the number of train accidents. There are about 2,000 collisions and over 200 fatalities a year from railroad crossing incidents. I was actually surprised that the number was so high. Living in the suburban area that I do, nearly 100% of all train crossings I encounter have gates and are well marked. I know that you should never try to “race” a train to a crossing, and we’ll unfortunately likely never know if that was a factor in this crossing or if it was a matter of the driver not seeing the train until it was too late.
While I definitely always stop for RR crossings, and I do visually scan the area as I’m crossing, I’m not sure I always slow down and properly listen (again, I am almost never crossing in a completely open crossing such as this one). But I guess this is a wakeup call to be careful!
Condolences to the Miller family (no relation) on this heartbreaking tragedy – there is a GoFundMe set up for the victims and family, if you’re so inclined