Michigan - Van Dyke, Center Line - driver cited in train/car collision,; signal lights and bells frequently malfunction

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Thursday, March 02, 2000

Driver may be charged

Passenger is killed in train collision at 11 Mile crossing By Hawke Fracassa / The Detroit News

CENTER LINE -- The driver of a pickup that was struck early Wednesday by a train may be charged today in connection with the crash which killed a passenger in the truck, police said.

David Weins, 18, of Warren died about 30 minutes after the S-10 pickup was hit by a Norfolk-Southern train at the tracks on 11 Mile near Van Dyke in Center Line.

Center Line Deputy Director of Public Safety George Silvernaile said the truck was trying to outrun the train. Police would not identify the 19-year-old driver from Warren. He was taken to Warren's St. John Macomb Hospital with head injuries.

The tracks had no crossing arms, but Silvernaile said warning devices operated properly. Conrail spokesman Bob Libkind said there are no plans to install crossing arms.

The train, which was headed to Sterling Heights after dropping most of its cargo at a Conrail yard in Detroit, was traveling north at 30 mph. The pickup was eastbound on 11 Mile toward Van Dyke. Police late Wednesday could not say exactly how fast the driver was going when it was hit by the train at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

The two locomotives and seven mostly empty freight cars rolled along the tracks for 100 yards after ripping off the S-10's passenger door. Debbie Sider, who lives nearby, was the first person to call 911.

"There was a big 'boom' and I just said, 'oh, no!'" said Sider, who was home in the Twin Pines trailer park next to the tracks.

"I called 911 and covered up the body on the grass with a blanket. It was a shock."

Though police said warning signals were working at the time of the crash, Don Zerilli, owner of an auto reconditioning business adjacent to the tracks, said the lights and bells frequently malfunction.

"There are no gates and the bells go off all the time for no reason. There are false alarms every day," Zerilli said.

Christine Witulski, an activist who convinced state officials to install crossing arms at two Warren locations a few miles north of the accident, said all Michigan crossings need arms.

"If someone goes around the arms it's their choice," she said. "But they'll let us protect people who want to be protected." To report a malfunctioning train signal, call Conrail at (800) 272-0911.

Source: by Hawke Fracassa, Detroit News


-- Lee Maloney (leemaloney@hotmail.com), March 19, 2000

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