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Makanda crash

A black Toyota Rav4, driven by Julie Walker, struck a train in Makanda, on Friday evening, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

MAKANDA — Jackson County officials responded to a nonfatal “car vs. train” traffic crash on Friday evening, according to a news release from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

The release indicates Julie Walker, 61, stopped at the crossing gates on Makanda Road, just west of the Makanda boardwalk, at about 5:47 p.m. After stopping at the crossing, Walker's vehicle began moving forward and struck the southbound train as it passed by, the news release indicates.

Both Walker's vehicle and the crossing gates were damaged in the crash, though she was not injured. The crash is being investigated by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, who responded to the scene, along with the Jackson County Ambulance Service and Makanda Township Fire Department, the news release indicated.

The engine was already clear of the crossing when the vehicle struck the side of the train, according to Jim Bilderback, Makanda Township fire chief.

“The train took the car and flipped it completely around, and threw it into the gates and poles,” Bilderback said. “It ripped the front end of the car clear off. Thankfully no one was injured."

In his 40-year career, Bilderback said this was the first car and train crash he was aware of at the downtown Makanda crossing.

"It was just one of those freak things,” Bilderback said.

But elsewhere in Illinois, train-vehicle crashes are up this year.

In early October, a crash in Gorham at a crossing on Lovers Lane, near the intersection with Grimsby Road, claimed the life of 67-year-old Gerald Mifflin.

Mifflin failed to yield while a Union Pacific freight train was crossing the intersection, and his truck became wedged under a tank car, per information from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Last summer, a Carterville woman was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after her vehicle collided with an Amtrak train at a crossing on Helm Road, south of De Soto.

Nationwide, train-related accidents are way down, from over 9,000 incidents in 1981 to approximately 2,100 incidents in 2017, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

In Illinois, train-related vehicular accidents took 14 lives in 2017, excluding highway crossings, according to FRA data. In 2018 there were already 18 fatalities as of September.

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Gabriel Neely-Streit is a reporter for The Southern covering higher education.

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