Officials release car-train crash details
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says a grandfather and his two granddaughters died in accident
By Leigh Ann Williams
Sentinel News Staff

TRIPLE FATAL - This Lincoln Continental is barely recognizable after being struck by a train Sunday morning on Old Centralia Lane. The driver of the car and its two passengers were killed as a result of the crash.

WALNUT HILL - Details of the Sunday morning fatal crash in which a train struck a vehicle were released Monday by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

According to Jefferson County Sheriff Roger Mulch, the occupants of the vehicle, Stephen R. Gilbert, 61, and his grandchildren Brianna M. Pitts, 8, and Brittany A. Pitts, 10, were killed as a result of the collision.

According to the sheriff, the department received a call at approximately 9:52 a.m. from Norfolk Southern Railroad reporting the crash on Old Centralia Road in Walnut Hill located in rural northwest Jefferson County. Sheriff's deputies, police, fire personnel and ambulance crews were immediately dispatched to the scene.

Preliminary investigations indicate a vehicle driven by Gilbert was traveling westbound on Campbell Road, turned southbound onto Old Centralia Lane and across the train intersection.

Submitted Photo TRAIN-CAR COLLISION - The Norfolk Southern train which collided with a car Sunday at the intersection of Old Centralia Lane claimed the lives of the driver and two passengers. According to reports, the train was traveling at about 48 miles per hour and pushed the car approximately 2,000 feet.

The Norfolk Southern train was operated by engineer Jeffery W. Morgan, 47, of Princeton, Ind., according to information provided by the sheriff.

Morgan stated he observed the vehicle enter the crossing and "began applying the brakes to no avail," according to the sheriff.

The train was reportedly traveling at about 48 miles per hour. Morgan activated the horn and the headlights were on their brightest setting, he said. The intersection is equipped with operable flashing standards.

"The train struck the vehicle and continued pushing it approximately another 2,000 feet before coming to rest northwest of the initial crash site," according to information from Mulch.

Initial sheriff's logs report two individuals were trapped inside the vehicle at the time of the 9:52 a.m. call and AirEvac units were placed on standby.

Jefferson County Coroner Dr. Richard Garrettson was called and responded to the scene, reports indicate.

At 10:22 a.m., Jefferson County Sheriff's Office communication logs report three fatalities.

According to the sheriff's office logs, a deputy requested a chain saw and wire cutters to clear debris from the area following the crash.

The investigation into the crash continues through the cooperation of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the Jefferson County coroner and Norfolk Southern Railway.

Obituary information on all three victims may be found on page 6A.