April 1996: Tragedy on the tracks


(WTHR) — After a series of deadly accidents at railroad crossings, John Stehr aired this series of three stories about the dangers at railroad crossings, the lives impacted by the accidents and how communities were trying to make crossings safer. At the time, Indiana ranked third in the nation for crossing accidents and fifth in the country for fatalities in those crashes.

John worked with officers in Hendricks County as well as the officials at Conrail to demonstrate exactly what happened when a train going about 40 miles an hour slammed into a car on the tracks. WTHR photojournalists mounted 10 cameras to capture moment, and Operation Lifesaver, a railroad safety advocacy group, helped explain the damage and the impact.

A woman who was paralyzed when her car was hit by a train, Jennifer Duvall, shared her story about the lifelong challenges she faces after she nearly died. A train conductor told John about how often he sees vehicles try to outrun the train and the awful time five young men lost their lives when they didn't make it.

He also showed how communities were working to make crossings and drivers safer.

This is a story that is still timely today. Indiana traditionally ranks in the top 10 states in the country for railroad crossing accidents and is often in the top five.

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