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Pa. car-train collision kills Waynesboro man

July 19, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, PA.

A 26-year-old Waynesboro man was killed Tuesday morning when a freight train hit a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier and pushed it 1,000 feet down the railroad tracks that intersect with Milnor Road two miles south of the U.S. 11-Williamsport Pike split.

Jessee Hykes of 506 W. Main St., Waynesboro, a passenger in a car driven by Misty Beers, 19, of Greencastle, was pronounced dead at the scene, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Beers was airlifted to York (Pa.) Hospital, where she was in serious condition Tuesday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Police said the northbound train with nine cars hit the vehicle as it traveled through the railroad crossing that has neither warning lights nor crossbars. The car, hit on its passenger side, struck a change point that allows trains to pull off to a separate track.

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The vehicle was found partially down the embankment with Beers out of the car, police said.

Hykes was not wearing a seat belt, but that did not contribute to his death, police said.

Police could not determine whether Beers was wearing her seat belt.

The Antrim Township, Pa., crossing was the site of a Nov. 1, 2005, accident with a milk truck and several other accidents over the years, according to a neighboring property owner.

"I think this is the first fatality. ... When you are eastbound, your visibility is almost zero," Nelson Diller said.

Diller, whose 130-acre farm abuts 2,100 feet of tracks, was in a small structure 600 feet from the rails when he heard the crash.

"What we saw was the train pushing the car up the tracks," he said. His 9:59 a.m. 911 call brought responders from state police, Greencastle Rescue Hose Co. and West Shore Emergency Medical Services along with the Franklin County, Pa., coroner.

Diller feels it is a priority to improve the crossing with warning lights and crossbars.

The crossing has what the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission calls a "crossbuck," which is a white X with the words "RAILROAD CROSSING." The commission approves crossing markings, inspects them and gives the authority for them to be removed, spokeswoman Cyndi Page said.

"The initial responsibility lies within the community. If a community is interested in having a crossing upgraded, they'd have to talk to the PUC," said Rudy Husband, a spokesman with the Norfolk Southern Corp. that was operating the train.

Crossbars and warning lights together cost about $150,000, Page said. The parties involved in the application (most often the municipality and railroad company) need to agree on who is paying for the traffic signals or else the matter is decided by an administrative law judge, she said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation sometimes becomes involved because it has funding available for the projects, Page said.

"It can be a lengthy process," she said.

Applications are reviewed on factors like the amount of railway, pedestrian and vehicle traffic; location; speed of trains; accident records; and an expressed need by the community, she said. The only markings required under state law are the crossbucks, according to Page.

The track speed in the Milnor Road area is 50 mph, Husband said.

Fifteen to 20 trains use the tracks every day, originating from Hagerstown and traveling as far as Shippensburg, Pa., Husband said. They serve a variety of industries, he said.

The train involved in the crash was operated by engineer Randy Clepper, 44, of Carlisle, Pa., and conductor Samuel Pobe, 23, of Hagerstown, police said. Both were uninjured.

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