Archive for Tuesday, March 14, 1995


March 14, 1995


A report on Monday's fatal car-train accident is expected to go to the district attorney for review on Wednesday.

Investigation continued this morning into a car-train accident Monday evening in North Lawrence that killed a Lawrence woman.

Police said the victim, Clara M. Patterson, 75, 827 Walnut, was a passenger in a car that was illegally parked on the crossing near Seventh and Locust when it was struck about 7:40 p.m. by a westbound Union Pacific freight train pulling 58 cars.

The impact pushed the Ford Thunderbird into a crossing arm on the northwest corner of the crossing, then spun it around and left it a crumpled mass on the north side of the tracks.

Police Lt. Ed Brunt said that when police arrived they found Vernon C. Smith Jr., 51, 827 Walnut, distraught and sitting on the ground. Smith identified himself as the car's driver and said he had been heading south on Seventh to go home.

Smith, who told police that he didn't fully remember what happened, said that when he pulled across the tracks, the crossing arm came down and the train hit his car, according to Brunt.

An unidentified witness, according to Brunt, reported seeing the car on the tracks and someone running away from the vehicle before it was struck. The witness said it was possible that the vehicle was stuck on the tracks.

Brunt said there was a possibility that alcohol may have played a role in the accident. No arrests had been made as of this morning.

Bryan Anderson, a self-employed carpenter, said he was unloading tools at his home in the 700 block of Locust at the time of the accident.

Anderson said that when he first noticed the car it was stopped in the east lane of the road and appeared to be tilting downward like it was caught on the tracks.

"I grabbed some tools and put them in my door," Anderson said Monday night. "I turned around and heard the train coming. There was this incredible bang."

Anderson said that he next called 911 and then crawled under the train to see if he could aid the victims.

John Bromley, a Union Pacific spokesman in Omaha, Neb., said the train was traveling 35 mph and that the posted speed limit at the crossing was 40 mph. He said the train's crew reported that its whistle was sounding and bells ringing as it approached the crossing.

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