$5.4 Million Can't Replace Family's Loss

Akron Beacon Journal 

March 3, 1998

by: Regina Brett

To anyone else, $5.4 million would seem like a windfall.

To Vicky and Denny Moore, the money means nothing.

"We don't care about the money. We don't want to get rich over this," Vicky said. "It's blood money to us."

Conrail paid them the money last week after the Ohio Supreme Court approved punitive damages the jury awarded when it found the rail company partly responsible for the death of the Moores' 16 year-old son, Ryan.

Two other Northwest High School teens died in that March 25, 1995, accident when a Conrail train slammed into their car at a crossing that had no warning lights, stop signs or gates.

Alyson Ley, 16, of Clinton, and Joshua White, 17, of Canal Fulton, were also killed. Ryan's brother, Jason, and passengers Jennifer Helms and Rebecca White were injured in the accident on Deerfield Avenue on the Stark-Wayne county line.

With the blood money, the Moores have purchased angels wings. They donated their $5.4 million to create Angels On Track, a foundation that pays for railroad warning gates and lights to save lives.

"The only thing you can go to court and sue for is money, but there's not enough money in this world to take away the pain," Vicky said.

"We wanted to make the railroad pay for what they should be responsible for," Vicky said. "Conrail is doing what we felt they should in the first place."

During the lawsuit, what hurt most were comments from people who criticized the Moores for "trying to get rich."

Those people have no idea about the pain the Moores experience each time they discuss railroad safety. The Moores have started a Railroad Task Force in Stark County, which will meet at 7pm March 11 at the Stark Regional Planning Commission at 201 3rd St. NE, Canton.

While pursuing their lawsuit, the Moores discovered the system to install already approved crossing gates is fatally slow. The crossing where their son died had been approved for gates and lights five months before their son died.

The devices weren't installed until eight months after his death.

Communities need to be aggressive and identify their own dangerous crossing, Vicky said.

"There should be no doubt in your mind when a train is coming down the track," she said.

Her son Jason, now 21, never saw the train that hit the car he was driving. He was just 18 when he stopped at the tracks, looked for a train and proceeded across.

"He's held it all inside," Vicky said. "He lost his only brother and two of his closest friends. I can't imagine what he feels inside."

"There's no such thing as closure. It never leaves you. From the time you get up until you go to bed," she said. "I lost one son and the other turned into an adult whose problems I couldn't understand. I don't have any kids at home anymore. I went from a house full of teenagers with the phone ringing all the time to silence.

"I might start to cry," she apologized. "Oh, he had dimples so big it looked like they were drilled in. He did things that drove me nuts, just like any teenager, but he was a sweet kid who went out of his way not to hurt anyone's feelings."

She started to sob. "I took it for granted I'd see the kids grow up. I realize now," she said, pausing to compose herself, "that I didn't appreciate what I had, and I'd give anything to have all that back."

Ryan would have graduated this year.

"There's no graduation. He never drove a car," she said. "He never got to have a steady girlfriend or a job."

The award money brings her no consolation.

Some people have asked, "Aren't you over this yet? It's been three years."

"You get over a cold, you get over the flu, she said. "You don't get over losing a child."


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