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Train-Bus Collision in Biloxi

My heart goes out to the survivors, and to the family and friends of the deceased.

I post these articles for several reasons: Not only is my brother a commuter-rail employee (so I notice such incidents) but I also drove over these crossings when I visited Biloxi about 20-years ago. Even then I noticed the uncontrolled grade crossings and the "hump" of going over the roadbed. (The press notes that this was a controlled crossing, with signs, bells, lights, and crossing arms. However, once you get stuck on the hump, all the bells and lights are irrelevant; you're on the tracks and a train is coming.)

Passengers recall moment train crashed into their bus in Mississippi; Texas husband and wife among the dead
© Copyright 2017 NYDailyNews.com. All rights reserved.
Source

Deadly collision: 16 accidents at Miss. train crossing over 4 decades
Copyright © 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.
Source

Although this is a tragic and horrific accident, I was surprised to see that the bus maintained as much structural integrity as it did, no doubt sparing some lives and injuries. Even after being hit by a freight train, it's still recognizable as a bus, not scattered wreckage. Also, the train was moving slow enough so that the driver could stop in a few hundred feet. It's awful but could have been cataclysmic.

I'll keep an eye out for the investigation, but already think this will come down to why the bus was traversing this particular crossing.
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8 Comments On This Entry

The CBS story says the bus was stuck on the RR crossing for FIVE MINUTES before the train hit it.

Why the hell didn't the driver have the passengers get the hell off?
He couldn't tell he was stuck?
This makes no sense.

Five minutes, there shouldn't have been ANYONE on the bus when the train arrived!


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I would not be surprised if the same thing happened there that happened four years ago when a bus hit a low bridge on Soldier's Field Road in Boston. The driver was not using a GPS for commercial vehicles.


Does your brother work for Keolis or Mister Bulger's Transit Authority?
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USNJIMRET, on 09 March 2017 - 06:23 AM, said:

The CBS story says the bus was stuck on the RR crossing for FIVE MINUTES before the train hit it.Why the hell didn't the driver have the passengers get the hell off?He couldn't tell he was stuck?This makes no sense.Five minutes, there shouldn't have been ANYONE on the bus when the train arrived!


At the very least, if the bus was only just barely stuck, maybe getting everybody off would have reduced the weight enough to get in UNstuck?

Five minutes is a L-O-N-G time to be stuck on a tracks.

Especially considering that *MOST* crossing signals are timed so when the signals light up you've got ~30 seconds before the train is there.

And FWIW, a tip: If anyone ever gets "boxed in"? Like when traffic is backed up and you can't move forward and the gate goes down behind you? Don't panic; ALL crossing gates are either 'breakaway' or spring loaded and will give. Yeah, you'll scratch your car up but you'll live to tell about it. And don't be afraid to ram the guy behind you if you have to; it's STILL better than getting hit by a train. Unless you're driving a Ford Pinto or F150 of course.
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Joe the Pagan, on 09 March 2017 - 12:27 PM, said:

I would not be surprised if the same thing happened there that happened four years ago when a bus hit a low bridge on Soldier's Field Road in Boston. The driver was not using a GPS for commercial vehicles. Does your brother work for Keolis or Mister Bulger's Transit Authority?


As a first responder, I have a variant of the Rand-McNally TND730 based on what truckers use but tweaked for first response. I also have TacNAV on a Panasonic Toughbook as a backup.

(For, say, a heart attack situation, every minute saved in getting there is a 10% increase in survival rate.)

I know about low clearances, whether overpasses or powerlines or whatever. I know whether or not I'm on a "truck route". I haven't yet seen ANY of them specify bad "grade crossings".
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Joe the Pagan, on 09 March 2017 - 12:27 PM, said:

I would not be surprised if the same thing happened there that happened four years ago when a bus hit a low bridge on Soldier's Field Road in Boston. The driver was not using a GPS for commercial vehicles.


Does your brother work for Keolis or Mister Bulger's Transit Authority?


He's a conductor for MetroNorth in the NYC area.
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Adam Smithee, on 10 March 2017 - 06:45 PM, said:

USNJIMRET, on 09 March 2017 - 06:23 AM, said:

The CBS story says the bus was stuck on the RR crossing for FIVE MINUTES before the train hit it.Why the hell didn't the driver have the passengers get the hell off?He couldn't tell he was stuck?This makes no sense.Five minutes, there shouldn't have been ANYONE on the bus when the train arrived!


At the very least, if the bus was only just barely stuck, maybe getting everybody off would have reduced the weight enough to get in UNstuck?

Five minutes is a L-O-N-G time to be stuck on a tracks.

Especially considering that *MOST* crossing signals are timed so when the signals light up you've got ~30 seconds before the train is there.

And FWIW, a tip: If anyone ever gets "boxed in"? Like when traffic is backed up and you can't move forward and the gate goes down behind you? Don't panic; ALL crossing gates are either 'breakaway' or spring loaded and will give. Yeah, you'll scratch your car up but you'll live to tell about it. And don't be afraid to ram the guy behind you if you have to; it's STILL better than getting hit by a train. Unless you're driving a Ford Pinto or F150 of course.


I just watched a PBS documentary titled: “Why Ships Sink” (a couple of years old). They covered how folks can “freeze up” in unusual, emergency situations. The initial reaction is often denial: “This isn’t happening” or “It’s not a bad as it seems”; it’s like hitting a Pause button on cognitive processes. Conversely, here’s a recent editorial regarding “Sully” Sullenberger and coping with anxiety “in the moment”. (Everyone reacted well but suffered trauma symptoms for months afterwards.) Not everyone is mentally- or emotionally-equipped to deal with immediate, life-or-death situations.

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Worth watching also is PBS's Why Trains Crash. I think it came out just this year. Mostly it focused on train operator error and how technology could help with that.

They didn't really get into 'stuck vehicle' and how to solve that, but from an engineering standpoint it's not hard to imagine a solution. Take a magnetometer such as, say, a Radix RTM300 that's used for tripping traffic lights but put it on a RR crossing instead. Monitor the status with a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). As cars go across watch it trip On-Off-On-Off-On-Off etc. If it goes on but not off within a time limit, assume stuck vehicle and send a signal to any approaching train.

OR, given the ubiquitousness of inexpensive IP cameras the days, put a display in the locomotive so that the operator can see the next 3 or four crossings before they actually come into view.
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I don’t think anyone would be willing to invest in the magnetometer solution on a large scale; look at how many years it’s taking to get onboard with Positive Train Control (PTC). The PTC helps with speed limits (using GPS, notably on curves) and signal breaching, slowing or even stopping the train if the driver doesn’t react in a timely manner. It’s not intended to intervene in cases of track obstructions.

Australia is supposedly moving toward IP camera deployment; other search returns regard security (cars, yards, stations, etc) and model train usage. The latter is kind of neat; I’ve seen some videos of “touring” layouts via train-mounted cameras.

We could always do what high-speed rail operators in Japan and Europe have done: Eliminate grade crossings altogether. Of course, that’s an order of magnitude less likely than the magnetometers.
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