Jury Calls for More Safety at Pedestrian Train Crossings

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Reported by: Katie Burcham - WMBD/WYZZ TV


Friday, Jan 11, 2008 @04:58pm CST


WMBD/WYZZ TV - NORMAL -- Thursday, a McLean County coroner's jury said the death of ISU junior David Hirsch was an accident...and it shouldn't happen again.

Coroner Beth Kimmerling says, "The jury's opinion took that as that he wasn't even recognizing the fact the train was there."

Witnesses said Hirsch had no apparent distractions, and was just intently lost in his thoughts. That's why the jury says an obstacle in his path might have slowed him down long enough to save his life.

Lt. Sharon Sweeney of the ISU Police says, "I think anything that's gonna help deter students not to cross the railroad tracks at inappropriate spots will help." Police say the pedestrian crossing gates are a good idea, combined with student education programs.

But Hirsch's fellow students say lectures are no match for the Union Pacific. ISU junior Ellen Hartnett says, "I live actually right by the train tracks and I've had my IPod on before and not known a train was coming."

The crossing arms serve as a deterrent for cars, but you can see there's nothing standing in the way of pedestrians crossing the tracks on the sidewalk. Town officials say even if they had the time and money to install a pedestrian gate here, they would have to do the same thing at nearly a dozen other spots down the tracks.

Normal City Manager Mark Peterson says, "There is, I'm sure, a considerable capital investment involved in that that we would have to analyze and again determine who pays for it."

Peterson says the town has a lot to investigate, including getting the blessing of the railroad and the Illinois Commerce Commission before they can even touch the tracks. Bottom line, Peterson says, "Don't expect to see crossing gates going up at pedestrian crossings anytime soon."