Witness Says Teen's Death At Crossing Was Preventable - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/29/05

Witness Says Teen's Death At Crossing Was Preventable

"I was about 20 feet this side of the road sign, about where that vehicle is now," Don Garganus says.

Garganus stopped at the Highway 57 crossing Wednesday morning when he saw the flashing lights and heard the warning bells.

He watched in disbelief as a car on the other side drove onto the tracks and into the path of the oncoming train.

"It appeared to me that he paused in the middle of the tracks and proceeded to try to attempt to cross the tracks and just didn't clear."

Justin Kelly was killed instantly.

Garganus says it seemed that Kelly didn't hear the clanging of the crossing bells or the blaring of the train's horn until it was too late.

He says this tragedy could have been prevented.

"In my opinion, if there would had been some type of physical barrier in the way, he would have never approached the tracks."

Garganus says red, flashing lights and whistles are good for alerting drivers, but he says each and every railroad crossing in South Mississippi should have a physical bar.

He says they save lives because they force drivers to stop.

"I've been in a situation where I wasn't paying attention and nearly crossed the tracks while the alarms and stuff where going off. If I pull up to a railroad crossing that has a drop arm gate, I have to make that decision to actually turn my vehicle and go around the gates if I want to get across that railroad track."

Some drivers do ignore the gates, many times with disastrous consequences. But Don Garganus believes gates would have stopped Justin Kelly safely on the other side of the tracks.

"A physical barrier here on Wednesday morning and Justin would still be with us."

By Jaimee Goad

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