Tragic Raleigh Train Wreck Blamed on Private Owners
Posted April 24, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — A mother is dead and her children fighting for life after a deadly train accident in Raleigh.
Witnesses said that a van stopped on the tracks as an Amtrak train barreled down the tracks. Saturday's accident was not the first deadly collision at the crossing.
The woman driving was killed, her two children are hospitalized, one critical, the other in serious condition. At the railroad crossing, there are no lights, bells or gates.
The reason the site avoids using warning signals is because the crossing is privately owned.
Although negotiations to close it down have been going on for years, the site claimed another victim Saturday, the third in five years.
The wreckage shows how powerful the impact must have been. The collision knocked the engine out of the van, and scattered shards of metal everywhere.
Witnesses said that the van was sitting on the tracks as the train raced towards it.
"My guess is by the time she looked up and thought about it, she didn't have time to decide to go forward or backwards," Witness Robyn Shaver said. "I mean it happened so fast, she didn't know what to do."
An Amtrak official said that the train's engineer saw the van. But even at a speed of less than sixty miles an hour, was not able to stop in time.
"But you have to understand, the weight of this train, it takes probably half a mile to stop," Amtrak representative Jay McArthur said.
This crossing sits on private property, and the owners are not required to put up lights, bells, or gates. Safety experts said that the propane trucks parked at a nearby business make the situation even more dangerous.
The Department of Transportation wants to take over and shut down the crossing. They have been in negotiations with the family for years, and still nothing has been done.
In order to shut down this crossing, the owners would have to build a road that would give nearby businesses access to Highway 54.