Grieving fathers seek railroad crossing improvements


About every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train across the country. In Indiana, there have been more than 80 train incidents this year alone, including two recent deadly accidents involving young people in Farmland and in Richmond.

Kristin Kiser and Amber Morrow, both 17, were killed October 28 when the car Kiser was driving slammed into a train.

"That train is very eery. It's tough to hear trains now," said Josh Springman, Kristin's stepfather.

Toxicology results later showed the high school football player was drunk. But Josh still thinks crossing gates may have helped.

"Not to say that it would have saved their lives or deter someone from doing something," he said. "But it would make more awareness."

A few weeks later, a train accident in Richmond killed three college students. They were hit by a freight train, according to investigators, as they walked on or close to the tracks.

Therese Heyman, a senior from California and Lenore Edwards of South Carolina were both killed.

"You don't necessarily expect people to be struck by trains," said Mark Blackmon, Earlham College staff. "It is definitely a tragedy."

"I know exactly what they are feeling," said Chuck Findley. "These kinds of train accidents are unnecessary."

It's been almost six years since Findley lost his sons, Travis and Jake, in a crash involving a train.

"It is a long journey," Findley said. "Every day is painful when you lose a child. You try to manage it because it's always there."

The accident happened on Stones Crossing Road in Greenwood. The train hit the SUV Travis and Jake were riding in with a family friend. Back then, there were no flashing lights and no crossing arms.

Findley thinks improvements to the crossing could have saved Travis and Jake. Because of the grieving father's effort in the "Jake and Travis Arms of Life Fund," that intersection now has crossing arms. Two more have been added in the Center Grove area as well, thanks to the nearly $800,000 raised.

More than half of the 58,000 railroad crossing in Indiana do not have crossing gates and it's private-public partnerships that are needed to pay for these expensive add-ons. Until your community feels the need to add extra safety measures, Findley has this message for anyone near a train track.

"I think what people should take away from these things, if they see a dangerous crossing in their community, the community can really do something before a tragedy happens," he said.