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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.

What happened

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 news coverage from 9News, more from the Denver Post, and CNN among others.

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

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