Train-ve­hi­cle col­li­sion kills two, in­jures one

Badly hurt driver air­lifted to Lit­tle Rock

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - EMILY WALKENHORST In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Jake Sandlin of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

WAB­BASEKA — Two women are dead and an­other is in crit­i­cal con­di­tion af­ter their car was hit a train Thurs­day af­ter­noon, the sec­ond fa­tal crash this year at the train cross­ing in Wab­baseka, a small Jef­fer­son County town of 250.

Jef­fer­son County sher­iff’s author­i­ties said Ge­n­e­sis Dendy, 25, drove her Chevro­let Cruze northwest over the train tracks about 1:23 p.m., headed to­ward U. S. 79, on the women’s way to work at Len­nox In­dus­tries in Stuttgart. That’s when the pas­sen­ger side of the car was struck by a Union Pa­cific Rail­road train, push­ing it 1,537 feet down the tracks that run through town.

Shamri Cole-Cox, 27, and Tal­isa Can­non, 28, both of Altheimer were killed. Dendy, also of Altheimer, was air­lifted in crit­i­cal con­di­tion to Bap­tist Health Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Lit­tle Rock. She re­mained in crit­i­cal con­di­tion Thurs­day evening.

The ac­ci­dent was at least the sec­ond fa­tal one at the in­ter­sec­tion this year.

The in­ter­sec­tion has no cross­ing bar and no lights, only a stop sign about four train-car lengths from where trees shroud the tracks.

Ed­ward Spears, Wab­baseka’s as­sis­tant mayor and a Jef­fer­son County jus­tice of the peace, said a fa­tal ac­ci­dent at an­other train in­ter­sec­tion in 1998 spurred the town to re­quest cross­ing bars and a light at the in­ter­sec­tion on Paw Paw Street, less than a mile south­west of where the women died Thurs­day.

In that crash, teenage boys were headed to Altheimer to play bas­ket­ball when all but one were killed. The town coun­cil passed a res­o­lu­tion sup­port­ing the ad­di­tion of cross­ing bars and a light, Spears said. The res­o­lu­tion was sent to the gover­nor’s of­fice, which ap­proved the re­quest and for­warded it to Union Pa­cific and the Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment for fund­ing, Spears said.

Spears went out to the scene Thurs­day af­ter­noon af­ter his shift at Len­nox was can­celed be­cause of the deaths of Cole-Cox and Can­non. He said he’ll work with Mayor Myra Ed­wards and the town coun­cil to pass an­other res­o­lu­tion in sup­port of fund­ing for cross­ing bars and a light.

“I just feel a sense of obli­ga­tion,” Spears said.

That is es­pe­cially true con­sid­er­ing Betty Jeter also died at the same in­ter­sec­tion in Fe­bru­ary, he said.

“That’s the big­gest prob­lem that we have in this com­mu­nity,” Spears said. “There has to be an ur­gent need, an ur­gent cry.”

The train that struck the women Thurs­day had 110 cars, 68 of which were loaded with un­known cargo, said Maj. Lafayette Woods, a spokesman for the Jef­fer­son County sher­iff’s of­fice.

The train was south­bound from St. Louis head­ing to Pine Bluff, said Jeff DeGraff, di­rec­tor of me­dia re­la­tions for Union Pa­cific Rail­road.

“Our con­do­lences go out to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies,” DeGraff said. “This is a ter­ri­ble event to have hap­pened. We’re also mind­ful of our train crew in­volved.

“We’re hope­ful the com­mu­nity will keep in mind to ad­here all warn­ings at rail­road cross­ings whether at that cross­ing or others,” he said. “It’s al­ways im­por­tant to come to a stop be­fore you pro­ceed through the cross­ing.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette

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