They're Angry And They Demand Action

The Independent


By: Ryan Werbeck, Independent Staff Writer 

In the blink of an eye, roughly 25 people from different parts of the country were suddenly tied together.

Every one of them has had to deal with a loved one being involved in a collision with a train. Many have lost a family member as a result.

"We're all here because we've been touched by this," said Scott Gauvin, founder of the Illinois-based Coalition for Safer Crossings. "Just by the fact that we came to Ohio shows it means something."

People from Virginia, New York, and even Kansas exchanged hugs and support as they gathered at the Holiday Inn in Jackson Township to start working toward a national group that will promote railroad crossings safety awareness.

According to statistics from Texas-based RailWatch, a non-profit group that strives to educate the public about railroad safety, a train accident occurs every 90 minutes. The death rate from railroad accidents is unchanged in the last six years.

Gauvin said he know his involvement was the right thing to do when he got a letter from a 17-year-old girl asking for help. "She wanted to know why here sister wasn't coming home from school." he said, adding he didn't have any answers for her.

Saturday's conference came about when Gauvin, a group called Hands-Across-the-Rails and the Canal Fulton-based Angels on Track Foundation decided to pool the efforts of groups nationwide to get more results.

"These are not accidents," said Vicky Moore, co-founder of Angels on Track. "These are collisions that could have been prevented had there been gates and lights at crossings. When you call it an accident, it's not pointing blame."

Moore, like everyone at the conference, has experienced the difficult fight of getting action taken on the subject of unprotected railroad crossings.

In 1995, her son Ryan was killed at a crossing near the Wayne-Stark county line. Eight months later, gates were put up there.

She was one of the lucky ones. Some at the conference still are fighting their battle years after the accident happened.

Becky Garry, who's daughter was killed four years ago in the Lake County village of Perry, said she still is waiting for something to be done.

She's been told that some improvements at the intersection her daughter died at could happen in January.

"You have to work before you see a difference," she said, "It should be a lot easier to get things done."

For some at the conference, it's been a struggle for years to deal with what has happened.

Larna White Robbins, who now lives in Piqua, lost her son Joshua in the same crash that killed Ryan Moore in 1995. In addition, her daughter Rebecca was injured in the crash.

She said she still has all the newspaper articles from the incident in a manila folder.

They remain in that folder because it's too hard for her to go through and organize them.

"I kind of feel like we've been spinning our wheels here," Moore said. "But I think we got a lot accomplished."

"The reason we're here is because nobody cares," she said with tears in her eyes. "It ticks me off that it takes people like us to do something. We know this is the right thing to do and it's going to happen."

To achieve their goals, the group decided to hold a national conference in Washington, D.C., next fall and also made progress on organizing their coalition which most likely will be called the National RailRoad Safety Coalition. The name reflects the fact that the coalition isn't concerned with just rail safety, but also the roads around the tracks. The next steps for the coalition are to establish a mission statement and bylaws, plan the national conference and get a Web site up and to keep everyone in touch.

©2006 The Angels on Track Foundation. All rights reserved. | Trademark & Copyright Notice | Site Map