Railroad crossing signals planned before fatal wreck

September 2, 2008 4:21:59 PM PDT
Engineers were a year away from installing flashing lights at the railroad crossing where a Johnston County family was killed, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Warning signals at the crossing on Herring Road in Johnston County are part of a large railroad improvement project in Eastern North Carolina. It includes 43 other crossings in need of safety upgrades.

The improvements would come too late for a young Princeton couple and their newborn son traveling on Herring Road over the holiday weekend. Brannon Brady,25, and Crystal Higgins,22, died after their car collided with an oncoming train. Their 7-day-old son Skylar was thrown several feet from the vehicle and died at the hospital. While authorities investigate the crash, it could mean safety measures at the crossing will be in place sooner.

"This is an unfortunate situation," said Joan Bragenpour with the NC DOT Rail Division, "The field study was complete. Signals would've been posted in a year. The accident puts it higher on the list for modifications. It moves it up in the importance of making safety improvements."

Drivers have said it's difficult to see an oncoming train without being dangerously close to the tracks on Herring Road. The Federal Railroad Administration has no record of previous train-vehicle collisions at the crossing.

Herring Road is one of 1,291 railroad crossings in the state equipped with only warning signs. Nearly 2,000 railroad crossings have flashing light signals and gates. Traffic signals are installed at least 7 crossings statewide.

Last year, there were 67 train-car collisions in North Carolina. Five crashes were fatal.


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