Credit Claims For Kansas Transportation Workers: Legal Considerations For Financial Security – A month-long investigation by The Star shows how changes to train companies’ business models are putting lives at risk and disrupting rural communities.

You never knew when or for how long a train might block the Maple Street crossing, the only way into the neighborhood where Gene and Linda Byrd lived on the outskirts of town.

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“You couldn’t go to the store to get a gallon of milk for dinner because you didn’t know when you’d be back,” Linda said. “I mean, it could be 30 minutes, it could be two hours.”

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More disturbingly, their son Chad said in a 2015 TV news interview: What if a train stopped at that crossing and prevented an ambulance from helping someone who was seriously ill on the other side?

Five years later, it happened when Gene Baird, 66, got out of bed with chest pains and collapsed around 1 a.m. on September 6, 2020. EMTs responding to a 911 call were blocked by a derailed BNSF freight train. , and when the policeman asked the conductor to move the equipment, he refused.

It was several minutes before the train finally moved and an ambulance arrived at the Byrds’ home, Linda said recently, fighting back tears as she recalled the night she lost her husband of 48 years.

“They put him on the board,” he said. “I don’t know if he was breathing at the time.”

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Gene Byrd’s widow, Linda, center, and their children, Chantel McDonald and Chad Byrd, stand at the Maple Street intersection in Noble, Oklahoma, where an idling train blocked rescuers trying to get to Gene Byrd’s home after he suffered a heart attack. Rich Sugg at

Medical treatment came too late for countless others when stalled or derailed trains prevented emergency crews from getting people the help they needed in time, The Star found in a months-long investigation. Delays in blocked passages meant fire engines arrived too late to save people’s homes from burning.

Much of the blame rests on congressional inaction and a series of court rulings over the past 20 years that have stripped state and local officials of the authority they once had to limit how long trains can block crossings. Only Congress can restrict train movement, courts have ruled on a state-by-state basis.

However, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass laws giving regulators the authority needed to address a problem that has only worsened due to operational changes in the railroad industry.

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“We have no clear authority to prohibit a train from occupying a crossing for any length of time,” said Carl Alexi, the Federal Railroad Administration’s chief safety officer.

The US Supreme Court has so far also declined to weigh in. Ohio is now waiting to learn whether the Supreme Court will hear an appeal it filed last month over a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down Ohio’s blocked crossing law.

That railroad companies can block crossings indefinitely is one of the most striking examples of broad-gauge railroads being allowed to operate as they see fit, dating back to the early 1800s when the first lines were laid in the United States.

A BNSF train rolls through the Maple Street crossing in Noble, Oklahoma. In 2020, Noble resident Gene Byrd suffered a heart attack when first responders had to wait at a crossing due to a stopped train. Rich Sugg at

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And the problem has only gotten worse in recent years for many communities across the country as rail industry practices have made blocked crossings more common. According to one government report, in 2020 there were almost 1,800 cases of trains blocking crossings for more than an hour and sometimes for an entire day.

Officials in the hardest-hit communities, many of which are predominantly minority or economically vulnerable, have grown increasingly frustrated and concerned about the safety of their citizens and the health of their local economies.

In 2017, in Forest Park, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, Kate Brown and her 1-year-old son lost limbs—she a leg and she an arm—when Brown crawled under a train that was blocking the road on her way home from a bus stop. passing the baby in her arms after her two older children crawled to safety.

“Disrupted trains continue to be a huge burden for our residents, first responders and especially our local business owners,” Forest Park City Manager Marc-Antoine Cooper told The Star. “Drivers and pedestrians in the area are being forced to detour their routes, while large numbers of trains are idling on the tracks for hours.”

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In most cases, blocked railroad crossings are simply an inconvenience. The children are late coming home from school because the train missed their bus. Adults cannot go to work on time. Appointments missed, bookings cancelled.

Arvid Ellison was 82 years old in 2017 when he hit his head and suffered a brain hemorrhage. The ambulance taking him to the hospital was blocked by a train for 20 minutes near his home in Woodhaven, Michigan. If he had been treated sooner, his son believes he could have survived.

Baldevbhai “Bobby” Patel, 46, of Warthrace, Tennessee, died of a heart attack in May 2021 when multiple transit trains delayed the arrival of an ambulance by 12 to 15 minutes, according to the deputy director of emergency medical services for the county where Warthrace lives. located.

Baldevbhai “Bobby” Patel, 46, of Wartrace, Tennessee, died of a heart attack in May 2021 after multiple passing trains delayed the arrival of an ambulance by 12 to 15 minutes. Feldhaus Memorial Chapel

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Treatment for K’Twon Franklin of Leggett, Texas, also came too late when emergency responders were delayed when a train closed a crossing near his home in 2021, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit his family filed in March against Union Pacific Railroad.

K’Tvonne was just 11 weeks old when her mother, a nurse, found her unresponsive half an hour after she put her to sleep on September 30, 2021. An EMT climbed through the parked train to retrieve the child and transport him to the ambulance.

But before he could get across the tracks to the car, the train had started moving. It was almost an hour after the 911 call and the child was finally loaded into an ambulance. K’Twon was pronounced dead at the hospital three days later.

K’Twon Franklin of Leggett, Texas, died when rescuers were delayed by a train that blocked a crossing near his home in 2021. The Franklin family

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“That train would always block the track for hours,” K’Twon’s mother, Monya Lee Ann Franklin, told The Star. “That morning it was on track for an hour and 19 minutes. And I was doing CPR for 49.”

She called her son’s death “tragic and life-changing,” but she hopes his death can prompt someone to fix the problem so another family can be spared their grief.

How often these tragic delays happen, no one knows for sure. No agency, local, state or federal, is keeping track. But worried that this could happen in their communities, some cities and counties are installing heavy-duty train traffic cameras at problematic railroad crossings so emergency workers and the public can know in advance that they need to find another route. If there is one.

Also unknown is the number of pedestrians who are killed or maimed each year doing what a Texas EMT did under less desperate circumstances. Tired of waiting for parked trains to move so they can get to work, school or the store, people on foot or bicycle often climb between or crawl under rail cars at or near railroad crossings across the country.

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Usually no one gets hurt by putting themselves in such tremendous danger. But sometimes, without warning, trains lurch forward or backward, crushing people’s arms and legs.

Two people were seriously injured in 2017 in Waterloo, Iowa, in separate, terrifying incidents at blocked crosswalks that often circle one of the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Oneida Cosby lost both legs and Jovida Owens was “handcuffed”, as scary as that sounds. Almost all of the skin, along with the muscles, was ripped from his neck and down.

“When the train is on the tracks, it blocks the entire eastbound crossing,” Waterloo resident Esoria Greer told The Star.

“When the train stops, people walk, many do not have transport. When they walk and the train sits there for 30, 45 minutes, they have to go under the train, or jump off the tracks on their bikes, pushing their bikes down, just to cross the street. Anything to cross the street.’

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“When the train is on the tracks, it makes me go out of my way just to get to my customer’s house,” said Esoria Greer, 29, a lifelong resident of Waterloo, Iowa.

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