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Woman Killed In Gulfport, Mississippi Train Crash

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Gulfport, MS Woman Killed When Vehicle Struck By Train At Railroad CrossingABC News affiliate, WLOX in Biloxi, Mississippi; and the SunHerald have reported that a Long Beach woman was killed Friday night when her vehicle was struck by a train at a railroad crossing.

GULFPORT — A Long Beach woman died at the scene Friday night after a train hit her car at the rail crossing at Ruth Avenue and Railroad Street in Gulfport, Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said.

Hargrove said Carol Holcomb, 64, driving a 2006 Nissan Altima, was going north across the tracks at 6:26 p.m. when an eastbound train hit the car.

He said it appeared she had been stopped at the stop sign at the intersection, but pulled out as the train came through.

He said Holcomb was wearing her seatbelt. She suffered severe head, neck and chest injuries from the train hitting the driver’s side of the car.

The intersection has a crossing sign and stop sign, but no electronic barricade, Hargrove said.

“There are no crossing lights at that crossing, and no street lights to illuminate it,” Hargrove said.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Ms. Holcomb.

The report from the SunHerald, above, indicates that the railroad crossing may not have been properly designed. The news account suggests that Ms. Holcomb stopped at the railroad crossing, but could not see the oncoming train and began to cross when her vehicle was struck.

Railroad companies are responsible making sure their train crossings are safe. That means the crossings have proper sight lines and visibility that allow drivers to see approaching trains, that trees and vegetation are cut back, that railroads do not park trains near the crossing (that would confuse drivers), that signals and gates are working properly, and that train crews sound a warning with the train’s horn or whistle as the train is approaching.

These train-vehicle collisions are a tragic reminder of how dangerous railroad crossings can be. In the last 10 years, there have been more than 30,000 railroad crossing accidents and more than 3,600 train accident deaths.

These train accidents can have many causes, including:

  • Failure of the railroad company to install proper warnings, such as lights, alarms (crossing bells) or a functioning crossing gate

  • Defective warnings — inoperable lights, bells or gates

  • Improper sight lines that prevent a vehicle’s driver from seeing an oncoming train until it is too late

  • Failure to properly maintain the crossing — such as allowing overgrown trees, vegetation and other foliage to obstruct or hide an oncoming train

  • Improperly parking a train at or near a crossing — this not only hides an oncoming train from view, but gives motorists a false sense of safety in seeing a parked train at the crossing

  • Failure to sound the train’s horn or whistle at or near the crossing

  • Other negligence that may appear on the train’s data recorder or video recorder

It takes a skilled team of investigators and experts to identify critical information.

Railroad companies need to do more to prevent these tragic collisions that kill. Unfortunately, some railroad companies attempt to cover up their role in causing these tragedies rather than implement safety improvements to prevent them.

In October, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad was hit with a $4 million penalty — on top of a $21.6 million jury verdict — because of its "staggering" pattern of misconduct that included destroying evidence in an attempted cover-up of its role in the deaths of four young people who were killed at one of its railroad crossings.

The Court found that BNSF destroyed some evidence, fabricated other evidence, interfered with the investigation and purposefully lied and advanced misleading facts in order to conceal the truth.

Railroad companies should be held accountable for dangerous railroad crossings that injure and kill. Is there a different set of rules for railroad companies than for everyone else? Railroad companies need to stop putting profits in front safety.

You can learn more about how to protect yourself at railroad crossings by visiting our railroad safety blog or web site.

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