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Dr. Gene Yang was killed and Dr. Philip Horsley was injured when their vehicle was struck by a trainAn ABC affiliate has reported that a Casa Grande dentist was killed and another injured in a violent train crash near Florence, Arizona. Dr. Gene Yang and Dr. Philip Horsely were returning from a hunting trip when a train struck their vehicle at an unguarded railroad crossing.

The ABC report suggests that the railroad crossing was not guarded by any flashing lights or gates. It may have been difficult or impossible for the driver to see that a train was coming.

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.

FLORENCE, AZ — Authorities say one man was killed and another injured when the pickup truck they were in was struck by a train south of the Valley.

Pinal County Sheriff’s Lt. Tamatha Villar said the crash happened just after 4 p.m. Friday at an uncontrolled railroad crossing between Picacho and Picacho Peak State Park.

Villar said the driver and passenger were both doctors from Casa Grande.

When deputies arrived at the crash scene, they found a mangled pickup truck lying west of the railroad tracks, Villar said.

A passerby was assisting one victim who was identified as the passenger in the truck, Dr. Philip Horsley, 26.

Deputies found the driver, Dr. Gene Yang, 54, seat-belted in the driver’s seat and determined that he had died in the crash.

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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