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Fatal Raleigh Crossing Accident Surprises Few

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RALEIGH — This weekend's deadly train accident in Raleigh is raising many safety concerns. The main issue: too many drivers are taking unnecessary chances at rail crossings. But few are surprised that such accidents occur.

Some drivers race around flashing crossing gates. Others sit on the tracks, waiting for traffic to move ahead.

Investigators haven't figured out why Victoria Torres' van was sitting on the tracks at Bashford Road, but people interviewed by WRAL-TV5 today said they weren't surprised to hear this latest accident at the crossing. She and a son died; a daughter is in stable condition at a Raleigh hospital.

While crossing gates may help reduce the number of accidents here, the problem is not expected to be solved soon.

"We've gone through this thing over and over with this intersection here," said David Sheuring with Operation Lifesaver.

The intersection has been the site of death and serious injury in the past few years. Torres, who was 32, and her children were the latest victims.

CSX rail workers spent the morning trying to put things back together while investigators tried to piece together exactly what happened. Sheuring says it all comes down to common sense.

"The bottom line is the person supposed to stop, look and listen before he crosses the tracks, no matter what," Sheuring said.

But, Sheuring says more than 50 percent of train accidents still happen at guarded crossings, with gates and lights, people still tempt fate.

People are impatient, they want to go around the gates and they want to proceed.

Given the enormous weight of a train running at its average speed, the engineer and brakeman can't stop the train on a dime, even when they make valiant efforts to do so. A recent television documentary compared the weights and impact of a train/car crash to that of a car running over a discarded aluminum drink can. The can never wins.

Despite Torres' death, several people ignored the Bashford Road stop signs over the weekend. Some went straight across the tracks. Others looked and simply rolled through.

Motorists provide various alibis for not stopping, such as they "did look," although they acknowledge they "should be more careful." One woman saw the train coming, but still roared across the tracks in front of it. She was, she said, "confident" she could make it.

Operation Lifesaver believes educating drivers is the key to saving lives.

"We want people to stay alive and it's so easy to stay alive. It's a no-brainer, I guess is the best way to put it," Sheuring said.

Victoria Torres died at the crash scene; her 9-year-old son, Henry Loredo, was taken off life support at a local hospital Sunday and subsequently died.