Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good Luck, Bad Luck, and the Right Kind of Luck

In prior posts on the subject of grade crossing accidents, I’ve said that 100 percent of these accidents are preventable. I may have to revise that pronouncement, however, after reading about an incident that occurred yesterday in Centralia, Washington, south of Olympia.

Picture this: The driver of a semi-trailer truck, which was hauling a second trailer, stopped at a grade crossing when the lights began flashing and the gates came down. He waited while a northbound Union Pacific freight trundled past. When the last freight car cleared the crossing, the gates went up and traffic began to move.

But an Amtrak train, one of the Cascades, was approaching from the opposite direction and, as the truck was moving across the double tracks, the lights began flashing again and gate came down ... between the two trailers!

At this point the truck driver, Richard Right, accelerated, knowing he had to break off the gate arm in order to get completely across the tracks.

He almost made it. Almost.

The train hit the second trailer, tearing it away from the main rig and turning it into a pile of junk. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

It sounds like Right did nothing wrong, and this one can be chalked off as a case of very bad split-second timing. It does reinforce the fact, however, that circumstances can and do conspire to make any grade crossing dangerous.


Mike said...

And apparently another crash around noon today (Dec 8th)in Illinois. This time four Amtrak passengers were injured when a tractor trailer was struck on a grade crossing. No details as yet.

Is this happening more frequently? I wonder if the FRA or NTSB maintain statistics on these incidents.

JIM LOOMIS said...

As I mentioned, the Google Alerts report grade crossing accidents at the rate of three or four a week. It's really hard to feel sorry for most of the people who are hurt or killed.

Kevin Love said...

This incident was also completely preventable. When the law was changed allowing a second trailer, the timing of the level crossing gates should have been changed to allow for this. It obviously wasn't.

This crash was preventable with a little foresight around the consequences of allowing a second trailer. I will add that such a second trailer remains illegal here in Ontario. This is one of the reasons why.