Train-vehicle collision kills two, injures one
Badly hurt driver airlifted to Little Rock
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.”