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Hykes remembered fondly by his family

July 20, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Waynesboro family on Wednesday mourned the loss of a 26-year-old "loving, caring" guy, and his new girlfriend remained hospitalized in serious condition after a freight train hit their car Tuesday morning in Greencastle, Pa.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation scrambled to expedite the upgrading of the Milnor Road railroad crossing that has been the site of at least four other accidents since the late 1970s.

Jessie Hykes of 506 W. Main St., Waynesboro, was killed when a Norfolk Southern train hit the passenger side of a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier and pushed it 1,000 feet into a track change point just before 10 a.m. Tuesday.

"He was kind of like a Reese's Cup. He could get along with just about anybody," said Peggy Stefenelli, Jessie Hykes' older sister.

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Several months ago, the 1999 graduate of Waynesboro Area Senior High School had forged a friendship with Misty Beers, 19, of Greencastle. The two had recently started a casual dating relationship, according to Jessie's father, Mark Hykes.

Beers, who was driving the vehicle, remained in serious condition Wednesday, a hospital spokesman said.

The railroad crossing, with limited visibility for eastbound traffic, is marked with white crossbucks with the words "RAILROAD CROSSING." Crossbucks are supposed to be treated like yield signs.

A PennDOT spokesman said a meeting between the railroad, municipality and transportation department will be held at the site in the next several weeks to look at installing signals.

"To put flashing lights in at a location would probably run $110,000 to $130,000. If you add gates, probably $150,000 to $175,000," said Greg Penny, community relations coordinator with PennDOT Engineering District 8.

Franklin County, Pa., had $148,000 of federal money available to it for railroad crossings in 2006 and has $217,000 in 2007, Penny said.

"We had written on two occasions to PennDOT in '99 and 2005. We knew it was on the list for review for signals, some type of improvements," Antrim Township (Pa.) Manager Ben Thomas said.

The 1999 request for stop signs was denied, Penny said. He has been told engineers felt the crossbucks were sufficient and stop signs might only encourage rolling stops.

"Railroad activity is picking up. What may have been at one time a sleepy crossing with few trains (has changed as) train activity is picking up in the region," Penny said.

Franklin County has 52 at-grade railroad crossings, meaning they are at the same level as the roadway. Those crossings are marked with crossbucks, flashing lights and/or crossbars, Penny said.

Jessie Hykes had several tight-knit friends and a large social circle. Evenings were often spent with family and friends sitting on the front porch and "shooting the bull," his father said.

Jessie Hykes spent up to eight hours a day with his three nephews, the oldest of which would get "Uncle Jessie" to dance with him while watching "The Wiggles" on television.

"My youngest one kind of attached himself to (Jessie) really quick," Stefenelli said. "Uncle Jessie" also encouraged her 4-year-old to talk more often and helped him with speech difficulties, she said.

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