The deadly accident between a charter bus carrying 48 tourists and a CSX train exposed a danger that had been there for decades and sparked a News 5 Investigation into other possible dangerous crossings.
“We’ve always said that one day someone is not going to have enough time to get off the track…and that’s exactly what happened,” John Kemp, a Biloxi native, told News 5 following the fatal accident.
While locals have known for years the crossing was dangerous, it took this tragedy on the tracks to bring the National Transportation Safety Board out to Biloxi to investigate.
“When I seen the wreck in Biloxi I did think about this crossing,” Evergreen City Councilman, John Skinner Jr told us.
Our own investigation into dangerous railroad crossings led us to Evergreen, Alabama, an old railroad town in Conecuh County.
“It has been fixed been since that happened but school buses and all kinds of stuff come through here and you would never want that to happen,” Skinner Jr. said.
Four years ago the Belleville Street Crossing in Evergreen, Alabama, was considered one of the most dangerous crossings in the United States. However, over the last four years, additional safety features have been added. There hasn’t been an accident there since.
In 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration released a list of crossings with the most reported accidents in the last 10-years. Most on the list were located in highly populated urban areas. However, Evergreen, the small Alabama town, population 4,000 also made the cut with the most reported accidents. Locals aren’t surprised.
“Everyone in town has known it was a bad crossing for years. There’s been several deaths here and wrecks continuously,” Skinner told us during our visit.
Frank Lee Porter has lived in Evergreen, Alabama, for the past 66-years. He told News 5 he has witnessed numerous accidents at this railroad crossing.
“I seen a guy and his son get killed right here.” He continued, “[The train] come across the track and the train hit this older guy, and his son tried to get him out before it got there and it killed both of them,” Porter said.
Local government in Evergreen pushed for years to get safety gates added to the Belleville Street crossing. Finally, in 2013, the intersection was upgraded.
Rob Boggan sees trains pass by his business every day. He also witnesses drivers ignore the crossing arms.
“It doesn’t matter if there’s an arm there or not they gonna go around or whatever so we can only do what we can to prevent accidents you know,” Boggan said.
One other railroad crossing in our area made the list of Alabama’s deadliest. That crossing is located on Bates Lake Road in McIntosh, Alabama. There have been two incidents at the site and 3 people have been killed.