Family campaigns for railroad devices

Family campaigns for railroad devices

February 25th, 2011 in News

DAYTON, Tenn.-Nearly two months after UPS truck driver Terrell Hampton's death, family members are seeking answers in the railroad accident that claimed his life.

They're also petitioning for the installation of crossing arms at the railroad crossing at Highwater Road, where he was killed. The arms drop down and block a crossing when a train is coming.

Hampton's sister-in-law, Anita Andes, said this week that certain details remain "up in the air" about the investigation into the accident and the communication between officials and the family members after Hampton's death.

About 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 4, Hampton's UPS truck was struck by a Norfolk Southern train, records show. He was killed.

Andes said questions remain about Hampton's final moments, since his life revolved around safety. Hampton had driven for UPS for more than 20 years and last year received a commendation for 15 years of safe driving, she said.

At the crash site, X-shaped signs called crossbucks serve as the only warning indicator. There are no lights or bells.

Drivers heading east toward U.S. Highway 27 can see clearly for about a quarter of a mile along the tracks, but for drivers heading west, trees hide a clear view until the vehicle actually has nosed out onto the tracks.

Two weeks after the accident, Hampton's wife, Angela Perry Hampton, appealed to the Rhea County Commission to support the installation of crossing arms.

In a separate interview, commission Chairman Ronnie Raper said the county could "ask [Norfolk Southern], but you can't just put them up."

Susan Terpay, a Norfolk Southern spokeswoman, said the amount of traffic at a crossing determines whether a crossing gate is installed.

Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband said the railroad installs warning devices once they're ordered, but deciding which crossings get them is up to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

In an e-mail, Jennifer Flynn, the department's regional spokeswoman, said that once warning devices are in place, "the railroad owner is responsible for maintenance of their crossing, including ... warning systems."

The transportation department chooses "between 25 and 40 crossings each year for improvements," she said, and an assessment about possible upgrades is made after a fatality occurs at a crossing. She said Thursday she didn't know if the assessment had been made at the Highwater crossing.

The cost for installing safety devices at a railroad crossing averages about $200,000, Flynn said.