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Accident with train claims life of long-time Thomson bunsinesswoman

A well-known Thomson resident, whose family operated a local business for years, died from injuries received in a car/train collision in downtown Thomson last Saturday afternoon.

McDuffie County Coroner Rhusha Mack said 87-year-old Ethel Roberson died about 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta. She had been flown by helicopter to MCG on Saturday after her 1995 Chevrolet Lumina was slammed into by a CSX freight train near the railroad crossing at the intersection of Greenway and East Hendricks streets. The mishap occurred about 3:45 p.m., according to Thomson Police Department Sgt. Jammie Smith.

Ms. Roberson received a cut to the side of the head along with other injuries, authorities said. She was treated at the scene by personnel with the McDuffie County Emergency Medical Services and firefighters/first responders with both the Thomson Fire Department and McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services.

Cpl. Chris Wright of the Georgia State Patrol post in Thomson said Ms. Roberson had been traveling east on East Hendricks Street and was in the process of crossing the railroad tracks onto Greenway Street when her car was hit by the train. The freight train, carrying an estimated 90 cars and traveling southbound towards Augusta was moving at about 40 mph, Cpl. Wright said.

The train, engineered by Raymond Lamb of Thomson, slammed into the left rear passenger door/quarter panel section of the car.

"She managed to get about three quarters of the way off the tracks before being struck," Cpl. Wright said.

Only one of the train's cars was carrying hazardous materials - a flammable liquid - which was located towards the end of the train, according to Thomson Fire Chief Rick Sewell and Lt. Chip Bentley, one of the first firefighters to arrive on the scene.

The potential for danger was there, but because the train's engineer was able to get the train stopped 33 cars after striking the car with its engine, there was no immediate threat, fire officials said.

The railroad crossing has no arm guards. Prior to this accident, there had been no major mishaps at that particular railroad crossing in recent years.

Ms. Roberson and her family had operated Roberson Dry Cleaners on Railroad Street in Thomson for many years. She was a member of Springfield Baptist Church. Funeral arrangements still were incomplete as of Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, McDuffie County Commission Vice-Chairman Sammie Wilson Sr. is publicly advocating that CSX officials place arm guards at the Greenway/East Hendricks streets railroad crossing.

"We ought to have them at every city limits crossing," Mr. Wilson said. "You're on the tracks before you know it at that particular crossing."

Mr. Wilson said his concern is preventing future accidents or fatalities from occurring there.

"It's a big concern of mine, because of the amount of traffic that we have in that area," Mr. Wilson said. He added that it is his hope that city officials begin a dialogue with CSX officials to get arm guards installed at that railroad crossing.

Web posted on Thursday, June 05, 2008

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