Railway Safety Unifies Group
Canal Fulton couple, others devote time, energy to eliminating dangerous conditions at crossings

The Beacon Journal 

November 21, 1999

By: Kymberli Hagelberg-Beacon Journal Staff Writer

Jackson Twp: Vicky Moore walked purposefully around the small conference room at the Canton Holiday Inn, dispensing pained smiles and quick hugs, like a family matriarch greeting friends at a funeral.

Across the room, Vicky's husband, Dennis, pointed to a bulletin board plastered with glossy travel page accounts of the latest scenic railroad route and catalog pages decorated with toys for the puscale train enthusiast and shrugged. "We put this together basically as sarcasm," he said. "It's the kind of thing we see every day and have a hard time with."

Yesterday, the Moores hosted a meeting of 30 state-level railway safety activists from Ohio, Virginia, and Illinois. The group met to discuss forming a national organization that would push for the installation of lighted gates at all railroad crossings and increase enforcement of government standards for their upkeep.

According to the Houston-Texas agency Railwatch, a train accident occurs every 90 minutes in the United States.

The Moores have made preventing those accidents their personal cause since the Canal Fulton couple lost a son to a car-train accident in 1995.

Ryan Moore, 16, was killed in a car-train accident on Deerfield Avenue near the Stark-Wayne County line in Baughman Township. Two other Northwest High School teen-agers - Alyson Ley, 16, of Clinton, and Joshua White, 17, of Canal Fulton - also died in the crash. Ryan's brother Jason, now 22, was the driver of the car.

"It was a real steep hill," Dennis Moore said. "He stopped. He didn't try to beat the train and there was no alcohol. He looked left, but had some trouble seeing right.

"All three kids in the back seat died. Jason lived, and physically he's really good. Emotionally, we all went through something that will always be on our minds."

Last year, the Moores established the nonprofit organization called Angels on Track with a $5.4 million court settlement from Conrail. In august, the foundation donated $61,569 to the Wayne County commissioners to provide lighted gates at three railroad crossings.

Regulations for railway signs and maintenance vary from state to state. In Ohio, the Public Utilities Commission and the Ohio Rail Development Commission oversee crossings. In other states, only a judge can order changes to a crossings. Representatives at yesterday's meeting hope to lobby uniformity of railway sign and safety standards.

"There should be an inventory of every crossing in the country, with dangerous crossings at the top of the list for improvements," said Robert Comer of Magnolia.

Scott Gauvin of Springfield, Ill., founder of the Coalition for Safer Crossings, came to Ohio to encourage activists to seek publicity for their cause.

Gauvin became a railway activist after his best friend died trying to cross Union Pacific tracks near St. Louis. "I tried to talk to the railroad and to local trustees for a year then I went public," Gauvin said. "I was in the weekend magazine and on the TV news three times in two days.

"Suddenly everyone called back."

The state activists at the meeting made tentative plans for a conference next fall.

Until the national organization is formed, the individual groups will continue to weave a loose confederation through newsletters and the Internet with the ultimate goal of putting a face on railroad fatalities.

Debbie Klostermeier, founder of the Ohio organization Hands Across the Rails, got the permission of a Fulton County farmer to place a picture of her daughter Taneeca near the tracks where the 18 year-old was killed in 1994.

"When you cross those tracks, you'll see her face," said Klostermeier, who has lobbied for a federal law that would mandate lights and gates at all railroad crossings. "Her death, for me, needs to make a difference for someone else.

" I buried my only daughter on New Year's Eve.

"I have not put up a Christmas tree in five years. The human side of this had to be told."


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