A Missouri farmer said he warned the railway that owns the crossing where an Amtrak train derailed Monday that the area was dangerous — and urged others to proceed over it with caution just weeks before the crash that killed three people and injured dozens more.
Local farmer Mike Spencer said he was not surprised by the derailment near Mendon and argued that it could have been prevented because he claimed the railroad was aware that the “uncontrolled” crossing was unsafe.
“That was pretty much a no-brainer,” he told the Kansas City Star. “I predicted this was going to happen. I was certain that this was going to happen. It was just a matter of time.”
In his June 11 Facebook post about the railroad crossing, Spencer included a video showing a train approaching Porche Prairie Avenue at a high rate of speed.
“We have to cross this with farm equipment to get to several of our fields,” he wrote at the time. “We have been on the RR for several years about fixing the approach by building the road up, putting in signals, signal lights or just cutting the brush back.
“This train is only moving at approximately 45-50 but some come through at anywhere from 70-90 mph.”
Spencer warned anyone crossing the tracks with a vehicle to “approach very slowly, then look both ways” because there are about 85 trains going through the crossing each day.
Both Spencer and another local farmer, Daryl Jacobs, said the approach to the crossing is very steep — about 9 feet from the flat road to the top of the track — and a portion of it is obstructed by brush.
“We have to cross over it with farm equipment, loaded grain trucks,” Spencer, who grows soybeans and corn on farmland surrounding the crossing, told the paper. “We have no choice but to cross that track. It’s very treacherous.”
The train was carrying 275 passengers from Los Angeles to Chicago when it struck a dump truck at a remote intersection on a gravel road with no lights or electronic controls, said Cpl. Justin Dunn of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at a press conference.
The dead included two people inside the train and one inside the dump truck.
Spencer said he and other community members have spent the past three years talking to BNSF Railway, which owns the track, a safety engineer from the Missouri Department of Transportation( MoDOT) and a Chariton County commissioner to try and improve safety at the crossing, but nothing has been done.
Spencer, who is on the board of a local levy district, said the dump truck driver was hauling rock for a levy on a local creek, a project that had been ongoing for a couple days.
Nearly half of Missouri’s 3,800 public highway rail crossings are not equipped with safety features. Improvements at the Mendon crossing were pending, according to the MoDOT.
“This is on the railroad’s shoulders,” Spencer said. “They have known this is a problem.”
MoDOT did not respond to request for comment Tuesday.
In Monday’s derailment, seven of the eight cars went off the track after the train struck the dump truck at the crossing, sending at least 50 people to the hospital with injuries.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said it was too early to know why the truck was on the tracks.
With Post wires