St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Maj. Eddie Thibodeaux, left, assisted the news media during an event Thursday at the La. 13 railroad crossing to promote crossing safety. A Union Pacific locomotive arrived to carry reporters, photographers and law enforcement through the city. (Photo by Harlan Kirgan)
Train crossing safety stressed
The La. 13 railroad crossing was a busy place Thursday with police, deputies and reporters and photographers on the scene.
That would normally be case if a train and vehicle had collided at the intersection, but on Thursday it was just the opposite reason — there was no wreckage and the point was to keep it that way.
The event was for Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Operation Life Saver Officer on the Train.
Railroad intersections in Eunice were monitored by Eunice Police and parish deputies for about three hours Thursday morning as a way to reinforce the need for rail crossing safety.
Maj. Eddie Thibodeaux of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and Eunice Subdivision supervisor, said, “In 2004 when we started this we wrote 56 tickets. We are down to four or five tickets.”
Eunice Police Chief Randy Fontenot said there were two citations written during the operation.
Josh Guillory, a Union Pacific police officer, said, “The weight ratio for a vehicle to a train is 4,000 to 1. It is about the same as your car to can of soda.”
Thibodeaux has worked 27 vehicle--train collisions in his career. At one point there was a “bad run” of wrecks.
“Now, we are the bottom of the stats and it is mainly because of education. We go out there and present Operation Life Saver to church groups ... anybody who wants to hear about traffic safety and rail safety.”
Thibodeaux said he has not worked a train crossing crash this year.
“Even if a train is not coming you need to slow down at a crossing and look both ways,” he said. “I’m not saying stop every time, but take precautions.”
If the gate is down, vehicles should not maneuver around even if a train is not in sight, he said.
There is a phone number on the signal box to call to report what may appear to be a malfunction. Local law enforcement may also be called.
Part of the morning was to bring a locomotive to Eunice to roll back and forth through the city with either news reporters or law enforcement officers on board.
Wayne Weston, the locomotive’s engineer, said the 1,500-horsepower switch engine he was driving Thursday weighs 262,000 pounds.
In a 20-year career he has hit cars, cattle, deer and other things that intersection with the locomotive. They barely registered a bump sensation in the massive machine, he said.