The Latest: CSX: Biloxi area has large number of crossings

AP News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2017 5:11 PM
The Latest: CSX: Biloxi area has large number of crossings

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on the deadly collision between a freight train and a bus in Biloxi, Mississippi, (all times local):

4 p.m.

A spokeswoman for CSX Transportation says the Biloxi area has a large number of crossing wrecks at least partly because there are so many railroad crossings.

A crash Tuesday killed four Texas residents and injured about 40 after a tour bus got stuck on tracks crossing Main Street.

Laura Phelps said she doesn't know whether the area has a higher rate of wrecks per crossing than other areas.

She says the city's 29 crossings include 18 within 3¼ miles.

A Federal Railroad Administration database shows that Harrison County has 148 crossings — more than any other Mississippi county. Neighboring Hancock and Jackson counties have 28 and 92 crossings, respectively.

Phelps says the rail line has been working with Biloxi to close "redundant" crossings.

She says creating a more gradual slope would be up to the city.

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Transportation experts say that the physical layout of the crossing in Biloxi could have contributed to Tuesday's fatal bus-train crash.

David Clarke is director of the Center for Transportation research at the University of Tennessee. He says that if the crossing was too elevated then long vehicles such as buses or trucks could get stuck. By that point, it's usually too late for a train to stop.

Witnesses and authorities say the bus carrying tourists from Texas was stuck on the tracks for about five minutes before the train collided into it.

Henry Jasny of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says that drivers should be trained not to try to cross the railroad tracks unless they can clear it fully, but that they often go anyway if there's traffic.

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3:15 p.m.

Authorities are releasing the names of the victims in a train-bus collision that killed four Texas tourists in Biloxi.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said Wednesday that 79-year-old Clinton Havran of Sealy, Texas, died at the scene of the wreck, while 62-year-old Deborah Orr died after surgery at a Biloxi hospital.

Hargrove confirms that 82-year-old Kenneth Hoffman and 73-year-old Peggy Hoffman also died at the scene. A school district in Lockhart, Texas, had earlier announced the death of the husband and wife, both longtime employees there.

The coroner says all four died from blunt force trauma. He says bodies are being autopsied.

About 40 people were injured when a CSX Transportation freight train hit a tour bus stuck on the tracks. The National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies are investigating.

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2 p.m.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt says the investigation into a wreck that killed four Texas tourists in Biloxi will include looking at whether the tour bus company had a preferred route in the city.

He says many companies have assessed hazards and drawn up preferred routes to each destination.

He says the board is investigating another accident in which a bus driver took a route other than the recommended one.

Sumwalt says investigators will want to know whether Echo Transportation had a recommended route for its drivers in Biloxi. If it did, they'll ask what the route was, whether the driver was on it — and, if not, why not.

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National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt says investigators looking into the fatal railroad crossing crash in Mississippi could recommend measures such as closing the crossing to large vehicles, creating an underpass or overpass, or making a more gradual rise and fall at the crossing.

But he says it's much too early to say whether it will do so.

He says any decision about whether to close the crossing to vehicles such as buses and tractor-trailers would be made by the railroad and the city of Biloxi.

Sumwalt says the board has made such recommendations over its 50-year history.

Sumwalt spoke at a news conference in Biloxi. It was livestreamed by WLOX-TV (http://bit.ly/1hESXlD).

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National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt says the CSX Transportation freight train engineer hit the emergency brakes about 510 feet before hitting a Texas tour bus stuck on the tracks in Biloxi, Mississippi.

He says the train had slowed from 26 miles an hour to about 19 mph before hitting the bus, pushing it 200 feet and killing four passengers.

Sumwalt says investigators are still tallying injuries. However, other reports indicate that 40 people were injured.

He says a sign near the tracks provides an emergency number, and investigators want to know whether anyone called the railroad to report a vehicle on the tracks.

He says the agency also may do a line-of-sight test to see whether the engineer's reaction time was reasonable.

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1 p.m.

A National Transportation Safety Board member says the agency is investigating the fatal train-bus crash in Mississippi because another large vehicle got stuck at the crossing and hit by a train in January.

Robert Sumwalt told a news conference Wednesday that the wreck was the 17th since 1976 at that crossing. He says that "sounds like a big number" but investigators need to compare it to other crossings.

He says the agency cannot investigate every fatal wreck at a train crossing — there were 265 such deaths last year.

He says earlier this year the crash involved a Pepsi truck. And he says that in 2014, a tractor-trailer bottomed out there and was hit.

Sumwalt says this is the first time the agency has looked at this crossing in Biloxi.

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10 a.m.

The names of the four killed in the collision between a freight train and a charter bus carrying Texas tourists were not immediately released, but a Texas school district spokesman confirmed that two former administrators with the district were killed in the crash Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Christina Courson said Ken and Peggy Hoffman were retired from the Lockhart school district south of Austin.

Ken Hoffman worked for the district for decades and had served as an assistant superintendent. His wife was an elementary school principal. Courson said the couple had a daughter and three grandchildren who now teach in the district.

More than three dozen people were injured in the collision in Biloxi, Mississippi.

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7 a.m.

A witness says the conductor of a freight train was slowing down and trying to stop before colliding with a charter bus, but still slammed into it.

Four people were killed and more than three dozen injured in the Tuesday afternoon collision in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Biloxi native Mark Robinson tells WLOX-TV (http://bit.ly/2mipklH ) that he saw passengers who were trying to get off the bus either thrown beneath it or run over by the train. He says "body pieces were thrown everywhere."

Authorities said it took more than an hour to get everyone aboard the bus out of the wreckage. Two people had to be removed with metal-cutting equipment.

The CSX Transportation locomotive pushed the bus about 300 feet before coming to a stop with the mangled bus still straddling the tracks.

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6:30 a.m.

Bystanders say they rushed to try and help passengers on a charter bus after a train smashed into it in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The collision on Tuesday afternoon killed four people and injured more than three dozen others.

Buddy Pitts tells WLOX-TV (http://bit.ly/2n5CMth ) that he crawled between the train's wheels to try and reach a woman whose legs were stuck beneath the train. Pitts said she was conscious, and he was able to speak with her as firefighters and others worked to free the passengers.

The crossing is on a steep embankment and has a sign warning drivers that it has a low ground clearance.

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5:45 a.m.

A passenger on a bus carrying Texas tourists says he and his wife tried to get out as the train bore down on the bus stopped on tracks in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Jim DeLaCruz, who was in the back of the bus with his wife, says the bus got stuck on the tracks. He tells The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/2mg9WGz ) that he and his wife were trying to get off, but the train "just kept coming."

The train slammed into the bus Tuesday, killing four people and injuring more than three dozen others. Authorities said that seven of those hurt were critically injured.

The crossing is on a steep embankment and has a sign warning drivers that it has a low ground clearance.

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3:15 a.m.

A freight train crashed into a bus full of Texas tourists visiting Gulf Coast casinos, killing four in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Forty people were hurt, seven critically. The cause of the Tuesday afternoon crash is under investigation.

Witnesses told Mississippi news outlets the bus appeared to have been stuck on the tracks when it was hit. The crossing is on a steep embankment and has a sign warning drivers that it has a low ground clearance.

Authorities on the scene said it took more than an hour to get everyone aboard the bus out of the wreckage. Two people had to be removed with metal-cutting equipment. The CSX Transportation locomotive pushed the bus about 300 feet before coming to a stop with the mangled bus still straddling the tracks.