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Service held for train crash victims as baby released from hospital

Posted December 29, 2009

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— A memorial service was held Tuesday for a mother and son who were killed in a train-car collision last week at Southern Drive and Mount Willing Road in Efland.

Investigators said the fatal crash happened after Erin Brett Lindsay-Calkins, 26, drove under the crossing arms. Her Toyota was on the tracks when the train hit, and she and her 5-year-old son, Nicholas Lindsay, were killed.

Meanwhile, Lindsay-Calkins' 4-month-old daughter, Aven Brooke Lindsay-Calkins, has been released from UNC Hospitals, according to hospital spokesman Clinton Colmenares.

Erin Brett Lindsay-Calkins and Nicholas Lindsay Victims of train crash to be buried Tuesday

The mother, who had been married for just over a year, was on her way to a dentist appointment when the crash happened. She had left two hours early and wasn't in a hurry, according to her husband.

"I don't know how she was in that situation. I know that she pays attention when she drives and she had two babies in the car,” Michael Lindsay-Calkins said Saturday.

Erin Lindsay-Calkins worked at Duke's Center for Aging until she left to go on maternity leave. Nicholas attended Central Elementary School in Hillsborough.

“It's going to be hard, but I'm going to try to give (Aven) the best life I can," Michael Lindsay-Calkins said.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern said the company has fielded 11 calls in the past year from people reporting problems with the crossing. A malfunction was reported in one of the cases in which a defective breaker needed repair, said spokeswoman Robin Chapman.

The other cases dealt with a broken light or gate, typically caused by drivers trying to cross the intersection during or after the warning lights and gate were triggered, according to Chapman.

North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Worley said the state was unaware of any problems with the crossing. The last wreck at that crossing was in January 1980, he said.

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  • meredith06alum Jan 5, 2010

    this breaks my heart to read all the horrible comments some of you have been posting. i'm erin's first cousin...practically grew up sisters and nicholas called me "aunt". it's heart-breaking to read what you guys will write when you have NO CLUE what happened. i can't believe you guys...

    btw, just to break it to you guys who said "leaving 2 hours early for an appt is stupid"...both erin AND nicholas had dentist appts. she had called her dad 15 mins before they were killed asking him if he wouldn't mind watching aven for a few hours while they went to the dentist.

  • JAT Dec 30, 2009

    Luna, if that happened, then she was going too fast. And don't they have blinking lights there, too? if so she should have seen those before even seeing the arms.

  • LunaLea Dec 30, 2009

    My thought is that the arms were down and she ran smack into them before realizing what was going on. If the train wasn't there yet, but the arms were already down, it's very possible, especially at this particular intersection.

  • JAT Dec 30, 2009

    don't - but how long passed between when the arm came down on your car to when the train showed up? Just curious. I know even a 20-30 second difference doesn't sound like much but it would have been enough time to react and either go forward or backward like you did. Most crossings have at least that much time, that I've seen anyways. I wonder what the train conductor saw - i'd think he could tell if she was trying to go around or if it came down on top of her car, and if it was on top, there would be damage to the top of her car or paint on the arm.

    I guess my point it - they did an investigation, and in my opinion, they would have erred on the side of it being the fault of a malfunctioning arm just because of the situation. In other words, they'd want that to be true versus the alternative. We'd all like to think the arm messed up and she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But everything is pointing to something else.

  • dont-be-a-hater Dec 29, 2009

    LunaLea...this is so true....I remember when I was in my early 20's I drove right up on the same track turning right and had the arm come down on the top of my car- I was luckily able to back up with it doing damage to the top of my car- but like you pointed out- this is no great visual area- maybe the arms need to be moved back off the tracks in all places- or something heavier? Maybe something good will come out of this to help others.

  • LunaLea Dec 29, 2009

    Created a profile just to respond to this story. I drive through this intersection multiple times a day but was out of town when the accident happened. I drove through there this morning. First, I BAWLED when I saw the makeshift memorial.

    Second, I no longer think this is possible PPD. PPD was the first thing to pop in my mind when I read the story. But, this morning, as I turned onto the road where the tracks are, I noticed there is only one car length between the beginning of the road and the tracks. If a train where already passing, you could turn but would have to stop IMMEDIATELY. If the gates were down but no train passing yet, I could easily see driving onto the tracks before realizing you needed to stop. The impact of the gates on the car probably surprised and stalled her. Honestly, I think there needs to be some way to not turn onto this road at all if a train is coming. The tracks are just too close to the intersection.

  • GoGreen Dec 29, 2009

    "you may not trust them, but there's really no reason not to at this point."

    What? Did you not read the articles immediately after the accident where they said there were no reported problems with the arms? Did you not read the article from today where is states that there have been 11 reports of issues this year alone? There is plenty of reason to not trust them especially when they LIED immediately after the crash. What, now they are telling the truth? Right. Couldn't be that they are protecting themselves from lawsuits could it be? No that's not it.

  • d7p Dec 29, 2009

    Since there are questions about the train directions etc., here goes. She and the train were traveling in the same direction(towards the east). The view of the tracks in this area is obscured by a stand of trees until you're almost at the crossing.(Goto: Google Street View and search Forrest Ave @ Turner St Efland NC) She was traveling from west to east. As the pictures will show you the train is not visible(also the sound is suppressed) from the direction she was traveling. Also,when she made the right to cross the tracks she was looking into the morning sun(may have made it hard to see the lights?).

    There has been some talk about the fact that there has not been a fatal accident at this crossing since 1980. It has only been in the last year or so that the train's speed limit through this area went from about 50mph to almost 80mph... a huge difference.

  • dont-be-a-hater Dec 29, 2009

    Don'tBe -well said but totally wrong! Find out the truth for yourself; don't rely on someone else to give you that version of events.

    I do...don't worry- and ponder like the rest.....no one will really know the truth because it died with them. Someone told me a witness said she was on the phone at the time- I haven't read as such and people are going to say alot of things- stories get turned all around. It's just a sad sad accident. No matter the details.

  • JAT Dec 29, 2009

    Don'tBe - I asked because it would shed some light as to whether she knew the train was there. If it was coming from the opposite direction, she may not have seen it. Not sure how open the area is and if she could see that far ahead of her. However, it was alongside her, as you say, it would seem like she would have know the train was other there when she slowed to turn and go across the tracks. If the train was that close to the intersection when she turned, and she was travelling parallel with it, she had to have known. Perhaps, she did know and sped up to try to beat it only to find the arms down and it was too late to stop? Just pondering.

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