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No charges filed in SUV, train collision that killed brothers

Posted December 29, 2009

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— No criminal charges will be filed in the Dec. 9 wreck involving an Amtrak train and an SUV that left two brothers dead, police said Tuesday.

Calvin Brandon, 9, and Hassan Bingham, 6, both of Durham, were thrown from their mother's Ford Explorer when an Amtrak train bound for Charlotte hit the SUV. Investigators said the boys weren't wearing seat belts.

Their mother, Deborah Peaks Bingham, was treated at Duke University Hospital and released.

An accident report released Tuesday by the Durham Police Department says the crossing arm came down on Deborah Bingham's windshield as she was stuck in traffic at the Ellis Road crossing between Angier Avenue and Pettigrew Street. She tried to back up and move forward to get off the tracks, but the train hit the back end of the Explorer before she could finish maneuvering.

Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said the train was traveling at 74 mph and couldn't stop in time.

The Explorer spun around, and the two boys were thrown from the vehicle, according to the report. A tire knocked off the SUV flew through the air and hit another car.

Michael said investigators determined the crossing arms were working properly and didn't contribute to the wreck.

The state Department of Transportation installed "Do Not Stop on Tracks" signs at the crossing two days after the wreck to reinforce a safety message for drivers.

Drew Thomas, a DOT crossing safety engineering manager, said officials are trying to determine how to make the crossing safer to prevent future accidents. The DOT could put markings on the pavement in front of the intersection or work with Norfolk Southern to put sensors on the crossing arms so they wouldn't close if they detected a vehicle on the tracks, he said.

The DOT has applied for federal economic stimulus money to try to put an overpass or underpass at the intersection. Officials estimate such a change would cost $13.5 million.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 30, 2009

    Yes, uropinionmatters, it's "easy to get caught on those tracks"...when the driver doesn't know the rules of the road or doesn't care. I agree.

    So, do you care to answer my questions? ...about whose fault it is if you get hit in an intersection and why? :-)

  • uropinionmatters Dec 30, 2009

    Like I said unless you were there you don't know the entire situation.
    There have been comments from people who drive that same route everyday on how easy it is to get caught on those tracks.
    As for your DEMAND that the driver be charged is senseless, I'm quite sure the officers who investigated this case looked at the accident from every angle. IF THAT woman could have been charged you best beleive NC would have made an example out of her in a minute.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 30, 2009

    No, uropinionmatters, you don't get "stuck in an intersection" if you're paying attention.

    Have you ever seen cars wait at the crosswalk line until there's enough room to safely move forward and NOT block the intersection? Well, that's me...and that's how you do it.

    Reread (Read?) your driver's manual...put both hands on the wheel...eyes forward...pay attention to the situation.

    Do we need to put "do not block intersection" signs up everywhere too?

    If you're blocking an intersection (or train tracks) and you get hit, who do you think is at fault? Why?

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 30, 2009


    She didn't know NOT to stop on Railroad tracks?! Does she also not know about solid yellow lines and passing rules?!

    And, she didn't fasten her kids in?! SHEESH! I'm totally outraged at the complete incompetence/ignorance of this woman. It's criminal. She KILLED two children, for crying out loud.

  • uncw05 Dec 30, 2009

    grammie27 - I have known 4 year olds who can unbuckle themselves. When only 1 parent is in the car, it's hard to keep an eye on whether they have done so, and pay proper attention to the road. That could even be what started this, she heard them unbuckle, turned to take care of that situation, and didn't realize there was a train coming. Unless the mom admitted to investigators that the children were never buckled, doesn't seem like they have a way to know if it was that, or the kids unbuckled themselves, either misbehaving, or to get out of the way of the train.

  • uncw05 Dec 30, 2009

    Stop arms that don't go down when a car is on the track won't help. The arms are break away so that you can get off the track if they go down on you. Arms that don't go down solve no problems, and create a few of their own, unless the train stops when the arms don't go down.

  • Groovy Dec 30, 2009

    boingc...really? it's not the same thing as a mother getting stuck between crossarms and seeing her own children die. She surely didn't set out to do that. A drunk driver had a choice. People screw up. Thank God that HE is more tolerant of fools than you people.

  • Canes Girl Forever Dec 30, 2009

    People.....don't even attempt to cross rr tracks until you see your way is clear on the other side!

  • Groovy Dec 30, 2009

    Thanks for your rational comment jgallagher.

  • Groovy Dec 30, 2009

    Chill out grammie27. I think she's paid enough. Her oldest child was murdered. Walk a mile in her shoes and then comment.