Early reports indicate the Biloxi, Mississippi, railroad crossing where a freight train struck a tour bus Feb. 7 has a long history of similar crashes.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators arrived in Biloxi hours after the deadly crash to launch a probe of the incident, which killed four bus passengers and injured dozens more, including seven critically.
The crash investigation has just started, but the NTSB says there have been 17 accidents at the same downtown Biloxi crossing since 1976, the most recent crash being in January when a CSX train hit a delivery truck.
Residents who live near the Main Street crossing on the CSX Gulf Coast mainline, where the crash occurred, told KTRK ABC 13 Houston that they are all too familiar with accidents at the crossing.
Biloxi resident Garland Andrews captured video of Tuesday’s crash as he and others rushed to the scene. He told KTRK that he saw the bus stuck on the track and saw the train approaching and filmed the impact because he wanted to document what he said was a long-time problem in the city.
“I prayed and cried and called my mom,” Mr. Andrews told KTRK as the inevitable happened. “Implement something that’s going to change what’s going on in my city of Biloxi because there’s been too much loss of life,” Mr. Andrews told KTRK.
Biloxi resident Cecelia McDonald told KTRK that she heard a “loud boom” from her home about a block away and knew immediately what had happened. She ran out of her house and saw the train locomotive rammed into the side of the bus.
Mark Robinson witnessed the crash and told KTRK that the track is on an embankment and that despite the clearance warnings, the incline is too steep.
Witnesses told authorities that the bus had been stuck on the track for about five minutes before the CSX train hit it. The bus driver opened the side and rear doors so that the passengers, most of them from a senior center south of Austin, Texas, could evacuate the bus. People were still exiting the bus when the collision occurred, and at least one person was shoved under the bus upon impact.
Tuesday’s crash was the deadliest of all the crashes that have occurred at the crossing. Other deadly crashes have occurred in 1983 and 2003, with one fatality each.
The bus passengers killed were identified as Peggy Hoffman, 73, and her husband Kenneth Hoffman, 82, of Lockhart, Texas; Clinton Havran, 79, of Sealy, Texas; and Deborah Orr, 62, of Bastrop, Texas.
The NTSB said investigators are also looking into possible mechanical failures and other factors that could have contributed to the accident.