Toledo Blade

September 9, 2001

Edon, Ohio -- About 50 people gathered yesterday near railroad tracks where a woman and four children were killed July 1; the crowd called on lawmakers to install gates and warning lights at all crossings.

"We demand that all those responsible for public safety live up to their moral obligation," said Vicky Moore, of Canal Fulton, Ohio, head of the Angels on Track Foundation.

The organization held rallies in five states yesterday "Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, Texas, and Minnesota "to raise awareness of railroad crossing safety efforts.

Among those in attendance here were family and friends of the five victims of the Williams County accident -- Wanda Petre, 37, a homemaker and church youth group leader; her daughters, Amber, 14, and Chelsey, 9; her nephew, Bradley Krontz, 12, and Chelsea Green, 9, a friend of the family.

"This is a nightmare to go through, losing my wife, losing everyone," Terry Petre said. "There's no reason every crossing in the country doesn't have lights and a gate."

The victims were on their way home to Angola, Ind., after a church picnic when their car collided with a Norfolk Southern train at County Road I. The crossing is marked only with crossbucks signs.

The Rev. John Garrison, father of Mrs. Petre and pastor of Tri-State Church of Christ in Angola, fought back tears as he addressed the crowd. "It's been rough, especially considering this could have been prevented," he said. "The only comfort I get is knowing my daughter and these other dear people are with Jesus. And they didn't suffer. It happened in a matter of seconds·I pray no other families have to go through this."

Mrs. Moore, whose son was killed in a train-car accident several years ago, said Ohio has about 2,700 crossings marked with crossbuck signs and ranks fourth in the nation in the number of vehicle-train fatalities.

Funds for crossing upgrades come from the state, but the issue should be a concern for all government and railroad officials.

"Officials need to realize this is the kind of spending taxpayers will support because it makes our roads and communities safer," she said.

Florence Township officials have been urging the state to supplement crossbuck signs with lights and gates at local grade crossings since a June, 1999, train-car collision at County Road H took the life of Sheena Jones, 17, who was returning from a baby-sitting job.

"We tend to get forgotten up here in the far corner of the state," said Leo Seibenaler, a Florence Township trustee who attended yesterday's rally. "If you're not Columbus, sometimes you get missed."

The crossing at County Road I is expected to receive upgrades of lights and gates in the next 15 months, said James Seney, director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission. Upgrades will be made at the remaining Williams County crossings along the same corridor, he said.

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