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Dearing accident could spur railroad changes

After Dearing Mayor-elect Sean Kelley watched a train tear a logging truck in two last Wednesday afternoon at the Main Street railroad crossing in Dearing, he knew the first item on his agenda as mayor was the right one.

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Emergency workers load Melton Samuels into the AirMed medical helicopter.

"That was my first project, to get those crossing arms put in," he said. "I've already got the number to CSX and who I need to speak to."

The Dearing City Council had asked for the crossing arms several times over the past eight years. Outgoing Mayor Ralph Menees said the reply was always the same, that the lights and bells were sufficient.

Melton Samuels may beg to differ. The 53-year-old truck driver from Thomson attempted to beat the train while traveling north on N. Main Street in his empty log truck, according to Trooper Amelio Lamkin of the Georgia State Patrol Thomson post.

"The train struck the 18-wheeler in the rear right tandems - where the tandem and the trailer connect - tossing the tractor northbound maybe about 80-something feet," Trooper Lamkin said. "It separated the tractor and trailer apart and put the trailer back southbound 71 feet."

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McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall and Maj. Ronnie Williamson talk at the scene of last week's accident.

Mr. Samuels was awake and alert at the scene, but was airlifted to the Medical College of Georgia for treatment where he was listed last week in good condition. Trooper Lamkin said the driver would be charged with failure to stop at a railroad crossing.

Leaving the Dearing cafe after his lunch, Mr. Kelley witnessed the entire accident.

"I was just walking toward the door at the cafe and heard the train blowing the horn more than normal and really laying on it," he said. "I had already seen the truck coming up the road and noticed that the truck wasn't slowing down at all. I saw the train hit the truck right around the hitch area; then I saw stuff just go flying everywhere."

Mr. Kelley said he will use this accident as proof that arms are needed at the Main Street crossing.

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A medical helicopter flies over the scene of last week's accident.

Only one of the three railroad crossings inside the city limits are fitted with arms, as are the two crossings on the outskirts of town.

The Dearing City Council will take up the issue during its Jan. 9 meeting when Mr. Kelley and two new council members take office.

"I can't imagine them saying no to it now," Mr. Kelley said.



Web posted on Thursday, December 29, 2005











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