SWAR family pleads for safer railroad crossing

SWAR family pleads for safer railroad crossing

OGDEN, AR (KSLA) - Last month, two Little River County residents, including a 10-year-old boy, were killed when their vehicle was struck by a KCS train.

The accident has since caused residents in the small Southwest Arkansas town to make a plea for help in making the crossing safer. For one family, the wreck opened old wounds from when their loved one was taken 14 years ago.

"I miss my son so bad that it is hard to cope without him," said Linda Diehl.

Diehl said her son Merlyn Hochhalter was 21 years old when a KCS freight train collided with his pickup truck in 2002 at the Pine St. crossing in Ogden, Arkansas. It's the same location where last month's wreck happened.

"So how many more accidents are going to occur with people being killed at that site before it is closed?" asked Diehl.

Diehl said the news of the recent deaths at the crossing has only opened old wounds that have not completely healed.

"I have insomnia over it. I have nightmares over it, flash backs," explained Diehl.

Diehl said she has tried for many years to get the railroad to do something at the crossing to make it more safe, but so far, nothing has happened.

In an earlier interview, a KCS spokesperson confirmed the Pine St. crossing has a warning sign, which includes a crossbuck and a yield sign.

KCS says adding more warning devices is at the discretion of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.

The company said if the agencies want to add gates or flashers at that crossing, the railway company will help design and install them.

Monday, a highway department spokesman said they will re-evaluate the crossing, but for right now, it is too early to determine if the crossing will be listed higher on the priority list for lights and gates.

"They can put some lights, some kind of warning system is what needs to be up there," explained Diehl, "but Kansas City has fought me and everyone else saying that it is not necessary to put them up."

Late Monday afternoon, a spokeswoman for KCS said the railroad has corresponded with the state recently about scheduling a diagnostic review of the crossing.

She said regarding the 2002 accident, KCS investigated and determined the railroad was not liable, so the file was closed.

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