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Title: Couple, 2-Year-Old Killed When Train Hits Car at Crossing


WILTON -- David and Silvia McWhorter and their 2-year-old son David were killed Sunday afternoon when their car was struck by a freight train in Little River County.

The father, 28, and mother, 26,were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. The child was taken to a Texarkana hospital and then transferred to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, where he died early Monday.

The accident was the second multiple-fatality accident at an Arkansas railroad crossing in the past six weeks.

Little River County Sheriff Danny Russell said the accident occurred about 4 p.m. Sunday on County Road 40 a couple of miles northwest of Wilton.

"We're not real sure what happened," Russell said. "Obviously, they didn't see the train, but we don't know why yet."

State Trooper James Gravier said the accident apparently followed an uneventful Sunday afternoon for the McWhorters, who live in Lockesburg, about 20 miles north of the accident scene.

"They were visiting family in White Cliffs on Lake Millwood and were on their way to Wilton to pick up a bunny for the little boy to have on Easter," said Gravier, who spent Monday retracing the family's movements.

"I thought yesterday was rough, but today was no better," Gravier said.

David McWhorter was driving the family's 1996 Saturn north on the county road when it was struck by a northbound Kansas City Southern train.

The railroad crossing does not have gates, but is marked by "crossbucks" -- a large sign in the shape of an "X," Russell said.

The crossing gets little car traffic, according to Federal Railroad Administration records. An administration report titled, "Public At-Grade Motor Vehicle Crossings," says about 30 trains pass through the intersection every day, compared with about 10 cars and trucks.

A March 1 railroad crossing accident that killed four Hampton teen-agers raised concerns about railroad crossing safety. Shortly after the accident, townspeople met with railroad officials to discuss the possibility of installing gates at the crossing where the Hampton High School students were killed.

But, the scene of Sunday's fatal accident near Wilton recorded little motor vehicle traffic -- unlike the Hampton crossing, which was on a more heavily-traveled city street.

In Little River County alone, there are 69 railroad crossings, 50 of which are marked by crossbucks, Federal Railroad Administration statistics show. Only five of the crossings are marked by gates, and six have flashing lights to alert motorists to oncoming trains.

On Monday, a United States Supreme Court ruling gave railroads greater protection against being sued over allegedly inadequate warning devices at rail crossings.

The justices, voting 7-2 in a Tennessee case, said railroads are not financially liable if the equipment installed at a grade-level crossing is federally funded. This article was published on Tuesday, April 18, 2000


-- (, April 18, 2000

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