Monday, October 12, 2009

Troopers Release Names of Deceased in North County Train Collision

Troopers Release Names of Deceased in North County Train Collision
By April Diodato
POSTED: October 12, 2009

Emergency crews respond to the scene of a collision between a train and moving truck Saturday afternoon between Van Buren and Berry roads in Pomfret.
Photo by Tim Latshaw

Three Dunkirk residents succumbed in an accident Saturday afternoon when a train collided with their U-Haul rental truck in Pomfret.

Sean P. O'Rourke, 24, was identified as the operator of the vehicle, with William T. Marquardt, 24, and Zachary P. Nydahl, 25, as passengers.

The three victims were pronounced dead on arrival by Chautauqua County Coroner Richard Mackowiak.

According to a report from New York State Police, the truck attempted to cross the railroad tracks after driving around the safety gates, with crossing gates lowered and lights flashing, while traveling northbound on Van Buren Road at approximately 2:39 p.m.

The U-Haul was struck by a westbound CSX train, with the train and truck coming to rest about half a mile west of Van Buren Road, nearly to the next crossing on Berry Road in Pomfret.

The accident was reportedly witnessed by several people waiting at the crossing.

One witness, who requested not to be named, said the crossing barriers had been lowered but some vehicles chose to drive around them.

"Two cars came around and one ahead of us went; and when this last car was coming through, the train was coming and hit them," the witness said.

According to the Associated Press, witness William Brown said the U-Haul "just exploded when the train hit it."

The Fredonia Fire Department reported that the vehicle was trapped underneath the train.

The Chautauqua County Sheriffs Office and CSX investigators also assisted at the scene.

An investigation into the collision by the State Police and CSX continues.


Victims in train accident may have thought gates malfunctioned
By Gene Warner

A mistaken assumption -- that the crossing gates and warning lights were malfunctioning at a Chautauqua County railroad crossing -- may have led to the tragic accident that claimed three lives Saturday, state police investigators suggested today.

Three Dunkirk residents were killed Saturday afternoon when their rental truck was struck by a westbound CSX train in the Town of Pomfret.

Investigators believe the driver of the rental truck tried to drive around the crossing gates, which remained in the down position shortly after an earlier slow-moving train had just cleared the tracks from the opposite direction.

State police also say that at least one other vehicle in front of the rental truck went around the crossing gates. So investigators believe the drivers of both vehicles may have assumed the crossing gates and flashing lights were malfunctioning after the first train had gone through the crossing.

"The one train cleared, and they probably figured that the gates just didn't go up," State Police Capt. Richard S. Allen said today. "So we assume they drove around the gates thinking the tracks were clear."

All three Dunkirk residents in the rental truck were pronounced dead at the scene. They were identified as Sean P. O'Rourke, 24; William T. Marquardt, 24; and Zachary P. Nydahl, 26.

State police say they have found no evidence of any drinking or drug use.

O'Rourke was driving the rental truck north on Van Buren Road in the Town of Pomfret shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday, state police said.

After the first eastbound train cleared the tracks, the gates remained down and the lights flashing. The driver of the rental truck, apparently like the driver in front of him, tried to cross the tracks, but his vehicle was struck by the second westbound train that was traveling at about 59 mph.

Calling it a terrible tragedy, Allen, zone commander of the state police in Chautauqua County, cited the lessons that can be learned from the horrific accident.

"The gates are down for a reason," Allen said. "There are occasions when they do malfunction, but we get [an officer] to direct traffic around the gates. Unless someone is telling you to go around them, you should never go around activated warning lights."

Allen also used the concept of a crossing-gates malfunction as a safety tip. Even when the gates aren't down, he suggested, drivers should look in both directions before crossing the tracks.

Following the accident, the weight and speed of the train kept it and the truck traveling about a half mile west of the impact site.

"To safely stop a train, it usually takes up to two miles," Allen said. "In this case, it took about half a mile."

No comments:

Post a Comment