Despite fatal crashes, authorities insist Morrisville rail crossing is safe
Posted November 17, 2015 7:18 p.m. EST
Morrisville, N.C. — Four people have been killed at a railroad crossing in Morrisville in the past 15 months.
Since 2007, at least four accidents have been reported at the crossing, which runs parallel to N.C. Highway 54 at Morrisville Carpenter Road, including three in which vehicles mistakenly turned onto the railroad tracks.
On Saturday, William L. "Laurence" Flint, 86, and his wife, Dorothy L. Flint, 83, of Cary, died when a freight train slammed into their car. In August 2014, John Burl Hudson, 57, and his wife, Fiona Frances Hudson, 55, of Southern Pines, similarly died when their car was hit by a freight train.
New safety measures have been added to the intersection over the years, including a redesign that leveled the crossing, added a traffic lane and concrete islands and synched up the traffic signal and crossing signal.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott said the agency will continue to evaluate the crossing and likely will look at the signals there as well, but authorities said they believe the improvements are working.
"DOT has been out here. CSX, Norfolk Southern, they’ve all been out here. The intersection is safe," Morrisville Police Chief Ira Jones said Tuesday. "Everything was working properly. We just think this was a tragic accident."
The Flints' family visited the crossing Tuesday to see it for themselves, saying they want to prevent another tragedy.
Police said Laurence Flint was trying to turn onto N.C. 54 on Saturday night but mistakenly wound up on the railroad tracks, where his car became stuck.
A witness said husband and wife were both able to get out of the car, but Dorothy Flint fell. Laurence Flint hurried around the car to help his wife, but he wasn't able to pull her to safely, according to the witness.
"I have no doubt that he probably could have gotten away in time, but that’s just not who he was," said the Flints' grandson, Lawrence Cameron.
The Flints were married for 60 years and had two children, eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
"There’s no way he was going to just leave her there. We have no doubt of that," said their daughter, Marian Gonzalez.
Cameron said he takes solace in his grandfather's last moments alive.
"His true character was tested, and he lived up to who he claimed to be – a man that loved his wife unconditionally and dearly and literally would give his life for his wife, and he did," he said.