The Independent

By: Laura Van Houten

Friday, April 9, 2004

Some people don’t want Denny and Vicky Moore to continue their mission.

But hearing negative comments about their work just gives them more motivation.

“This is our full-time job and lifetime mission now,” Vicky said. “We get emails all of the time that are hatful and from people who have a bone to pick with us. And these people know nothing about us personally or the work we do. So they give us the incentive to do more. We’ll continue this until the day we die and there are people who will continue it for us after that.”

The Moores, formerly of Canal Fulton, started The Angels on Track Foundation, a non-profit railroad safety foundation, in 1997, after a train/vehicle accident involving their two sons, Jason and Ryan.

On March 25, 1995, Jason, then 18, was driving with 16-year-old Ryan and four of their friends down Deerfield Avenue Northwest in Lawrence Township when their car was struck by a Conrail freight train.

Ryan and his two friends, Joshua White, 17, and Alyson Ley, 16, died that day. Jason was injured along with White’s sister, Rebecca, and friend Jessica Helms.

“There was only a crossbuck sign and no gates or lights,” Vicky said. “Jason was obeying all the laws and was not cited for the accident. Ryan along with two other friends, Joshua and Alyson, would still be alive today if there had been gates.

“That crossing at Deerfield had been considered one of the most dangerous crossings in Ohio and was approved for gates in November 1994”, she added. “Between January 1995 and March 1995, there were three separate accidents where four people died. And it took them until November 1995 to put the gates and lights up at that crossing.”

To the Moores, the crossing where their son was killed is not the only dangerous crossing.

“All crossings are bad, “Denny said. “We want everyone to know that all crossings are bad. We did win money from our case against Conrail, but to us it’s blood money. That money came to us because of the death of our son.

“We couldn’t go buy a house or a car with that money,” he added. “It just didn’t seem right. So we put the money into the foundation. We’ll probably never know how many people we’ve helped keep from tragedy, but as long as we do help, that’s what’s important.”

The foundation’s funding program is designed as a Reimbursement Grant. Working with the State Funded Grade Crossing Upgrade Program outlined by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, counties that qualify can apply and be considered for possible funding, which is up to 30 percent and not to exceed $40,000 for each upgrade project.

“We’ve helped pay to upgrade about 10 crossings,” Denny said. “We’ve worked with eight counties, but have approached more than 20. Some counties may feel that it’s not an immediate need or they don’t want to put up the money.

“They want easy money and fixing these crossings is not easy,” he added. “The costs of upgrading a crossing have gone up from $108,000 per upgrade to $166,000 per upgrade. With the way the reimbursement grant works, the counties would have to pay more money, which with the economy is not always at the top of their list.”

The foundation’s latest project is educational.

“We’ve put our message, ‘Bad Crossings Kill Good Drivers,’ on billboards and have recorded public service announcements on the radio,” Vicky said. “And while we’ve gotten a lot of negative comments about them, that means that people are seeing them, which is what we wanted. And with those negative comments, we also get positive e-mails from people thanking us.”

The Moores read about families just like theirs everyday. “We still see accidents with trains and cars all the time,” Vicky said. “And families just like ours lose a loved one when it could have been avoided if there was a gate or lights. But for many areas, upgrading is not a priority until a death happens.

“We’re doing this for the victims,” she added. “Many people think when these accidents happen, the drivers are at fault, which in most cases, like our son’s, is not true. And in some cases, the victims can’t speak for themselves because they’ve died in the crash. We want people to know it’s not always their fault.”

In a way, their efforts have kept Ryan’s memory alive, Denny said. “Doing this work is a constant reminder of what happened to our son”, he said. “It’s hard to think about upgrading a crossing without thinking of him, Josh and Alyson. Every time we go to a crossing, we can’t help but think of our son.”


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