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Several news organizations, including ABC affiliate KMBC-TV, CBS affiliate KCTV-5 and MSNBC have reported that three people were killed in a railroad crossing accident in Trenton, Missouri (MO).

From KMBC:

Three people were killed Wednesday when a train hit a car near First and Highland streets in Trenton, police said.

The crash happened at 10:59 a.m., according to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

No other information has been released.

From KCTV-5:

TRENTON, Mo. — Three people traveling in a vehicle were killed when a strain struck the vehicle around 11 a.m. Wednesday in Trenton.

The collision came near the southern edge of the city. Police have not released any names of the victims, pending notification of the family.

Missouri Highway Patrol is investigating the collision.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and communities of those killed in this tragic collision. Any loss of life from a preventable tragedy is unacceptable.

Although there are few details available in the reports of this train-vehicle collision, there have been far too many railroad crossing accidents in Missouri in the last few months.

Just last week, a young mother, Kristy Willis, was killed in a train crossing accident in Webster County, Missouri. In that incident, one of the passengers said she could not see the train until the vehicle was already at the track and the train did not blow its horn or blow its whistle before the crash.

In late November, David Griffit and a passenger were injured when their pickup truck was hit by a Union Pacific train in Marshall, Missouri.

Earlier in November, Scotty Davis was killed when his vehicle was struck by a train in Campbell, Missouri.

In October, Mary Redmond and John South were killed when their vehicle was hit by a locomotive in Amsterdam, Missouri.

These train-vehicle collisions are a tragic reminder of how dangerous railroad crossings can be. In the last 10 years, there have been more than 30,000 railroad crossing accidents and more than 3,600 train accident deaths.

In fact, Missouri was one of the top 10 deadliest states for railroad crossing accidents in 2008.

These train accidents can have many causes, including:

  • Failure of the railroad company to install proper warnings, such as lights, alarms (crossing bells) or a functioning crossing gate

  • Defective warnings — inoperable lights, bells or gates

  • Improper sight lines that prevent a vehicle’s driver from seeing an oncoming train until it is too late

  • Failure to properly maintain the crossing — such as allowing overgrown trees, vegetation and other foliage to obstruct or hide an oncoming train

  • Improperly parking a train at or near a crossing — this not only hides an oncoming train from view, but gives motorists a false sense of safety in seeing a parked train at the crossing

  • Failure to sound the train’s horn or whistle at or near the crossing

  • Other negligence that may appear on the train’s data recorder or video recorder

It takes a skilled team of investigators and experts to identify critical information.

Railroad companies sometimes try to cover up the true cause of a railroad crossing collision in order to avoid liability. In October, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad was hit with a $4 million penalty — on top of a $21.6 million jury verdict — because of its "staggering" pattern of misconduct that included destroying evidence in an attempted cover-up of its role in the deaths of four young people who were killed at one of its railroad crossings.

The Court found that BNSF destroyed some evidence, fabricated other evidence, interfered with the investigation and purposefully lied and advanced misleading facts in order to conceal the truth.

Railroad companies should be held accountable for dangerous railroad crossings that injure and kill. Is there a different set of rules for railroad companies than for everyone else?

You can learn more about how to protect yourself at railroad crossings by visiting our railroad safety blog or web site.

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UPDATE: More details reported in Trenton, MO train crash.

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