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Ravenna residents demand train horns be required at Ohio private railroad crossings

Posted at 11:35 PM, Apr 03, 2017

Some residents in Ravenna believe a change in Ohio law is desperately needed when it comes to requiring the sounding of train horns at private railroad crossings.

Robert Mitchell lives 200 feet from a private railroad crossing just off of South Prospect Street in Ravenna Township, the location of a fatal railroad crash that claimed the life of 15-year-old Sierra Thornton in Oct. 2013.

Mitchell and others claim no horn was sounded by the train engineer the night Thornton's truck was hit by a train at the crossing.

RELATED: What the Dept. of Transportation is doing to make sure drivers stay safe at Ohio railroad crossings

Thornton's father and her four younger sisters were in the truck at the time of the collision and survived the crash.

Mitchell pointed to Ohio law, which was changed just a week before Thornton was killed, absolving railroad companies of liability if a train conductor or engineer fails to sound a horn at more than 3,000 private railroad crossings across the state.

Mitchell believes failing to hold train operators accountable sets up even more potential danger at railroad crossings that happen to be situated on private property.

"It's exceedingly dangerous," said Mitchell. "It's ridiculous they need to blow their train horns, and they need to be held liable if they don't.  Otherwise, this will continue to happen."

National railroad safety expert Bob Comer told News 5 a change in section 4955.322 of Ohio law is needed.

Comer believes the potential hazards created reach far beyond collisions between trains and passenger vehicles, especially when it comes to trucks carrying flammable materials.

"I believe it's one of the worst law changes in Ohio history," said Comer. "A propane truck, a gasoline truck, a diesel truck, maybe an agricultural chemical truck.  Imagine what could happen."

The Ohio law was changed in 2013, and Comer believes it wouldn't take too much to change it back.

"Something must be done," said Comer. "Ohio lawmakers need to re-examine this situation."