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Close call for driver on railroad tracks in Moorhead

FARGO A driver had a close call Thursday morning when he tried to cross train tracks in Moorhead while the crossing gates were closing. As the red lights signaled and gates closed, Moorhead resident Dan Eli heard the squeal of tires near the trac...

FARGO

A driver had a close call Thursday morning when he tried to cross train tracks in Moorhead while the crossing gates were closing.

As the red lights signaled and gates closed, Moorhead resident Dan Eli heard the squeal of tires near the tracks on Fourth Street South near Center Avenue.

"I could see a car all crumpled up and it didn't look like he (the driver) was ready to leave the car," said Eli, 55. "He was trapped like a rat in a cage."

The man, who Eli guessed was in his mid-20s to early 30s, was trying to cross the tracks when his car ended up wedged between the gates.

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"I think he was probably panicking pretty seriously," Eli said.

Eli said he rushed over and lifted the arm of the crossing gate a couple of inches, allowing the man to back his car off the tracks - a mere 20 seconds before the train came whizzing by.

Eli hopes that people take the close call as a lesson reminding them you can't beat the train, or crossing gates.

It's a message echoed by BNSF Railway and city officials.

"We cannot emphasize enough the importance of being aware trains will move on any track and any direction, and encourage the public to be aware of this," BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said.

Repeating its motto to "Look, Listen and Live," Melonas added that a majority of fatalities occur at railroad crossings that are equipped with sensors and crossing gates, like the one in Moorhead where Thursday's incident took place.

The quad gates and sensors installed there for the Fargo-Moorhead quiet zone were designed to help prevent drivers from circumventing lowered railroad crossing gates.

But still, "the gates can't prevent someone from trying," said Tom Trowbridge, assistant Moorhead city engineer.

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He and Fargo City Engineer Kristy Schmidt couldn't recall similar situations like Thursday's happening since the quiet zone took effect.

"We've done about as much as we can with it," Trowbridge said. "(But) if they're going to try to beat them (the gates), they're going to try. There's people that just do stupid things."

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

Related Topics: CLAY COUNTYMOORHEAD
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