HUNT COUNTY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Ever since their mother’s fatal vehicle accident, a North Texas family has fought to improve the safety of a train crossing in Hunt County.
But in the four years since Sue Rigsby, 66, was killed, not a single safety improvement has been made at the crossing.
In 2015, Rigsby was on her way to the grocery store when her pickup truck collided with a train at a crossing on County Road 4108 near Greenville.
There were no gates, lights, or even a stop sign at the crossing and there are still none today.
When the CBS 11 I-Team began investigating why no safety improvements have been made, railroad and government officials pointed fingers.
“Sooner or later there is going to be another incident,” said Rigsby’s son, Kevin Houser. “I don’t know what it takes to get the message out there to fix this situation.”
The family’s attorneys Ben Martin and Laura Baughman said along with the lack of warning signals, they believe Rigsby’s accident could have been prevented if the crossing was level with the road.
Because the crossing was humped, Martin and Baughman said they believe Rigsby could not see over the top.
Instead of looking down the track as she approached the crossing, the attorneys said they believe Rigsby was looking straight ahead worried about oncoming traffic on the narrow county road.
“The hump is so high that you can’t see over the top,” Baughman explained. “So as you are coming up (to the crossing) you are focused on making sure there is not going to be a car coming and having a head-on collision.”
According to federal standards, a train crossing should not be more than three inches higher than the road.
Over the years when this train track was repaired, instead of leveling out the crossing each time, it was built up.
The crossing is now nearly 40 inches high – more than ten times the maximum federal standard.
“I think the railroad is 100% responsible for this because they created the humped crossing,” Baughman said.
But when the Kansas City Southern Railway was sued by the Rigsby’s family, it told the court the cause of the accident was Rigsby’s negligence.
The jury concluded both parties were negligent (50% Rigsby’s fault and 50% the railroad’s fault). The court ordered Kansas City Southern Railway to pay $200,000 in damages.
However, despite the verdict, nothing has been done in the four years since the accident to level out the crossing.
“They don’t care is what it feels like,” said Rigsby’s daughter, Angie Horton. “How many more lives is it going to take before they fix the thing.”
In a written statement given to the I-Team, a spokesperson for the railroad wrote, “We are disappointed the jury was allowed to hold The Kansas City Southern Railway company at fault for the elevation of the crossing.”
The railroad company said making sure the crossing is level is not its responsibility but the responsibility of the county that maintains the road.
When the I-Team asked Hunt County Commission Steven Harrison if he felt the county was responsible for the humped crossing in his precinct, he declined to comment.
Harrison told the I-Team he was unaware of any issues with the crossing.
Hunt County officials did point to the Texas Department of Transportation as the government agency with the most resources to install warning devices at train crossings.
When the I-Team asked TxDOT about the crossing, state officials said it only receives enough federal funding every year to make improvement to 50 train crossings in the state.
There are more than 3,000 crossings across the state without gates.
According the TxDOT’s risk assessments, the crossing on County Road 4108 ranks 355 on its list to receive safety enhancements.
“We don’t want our mother to have died in vain,” said Houser.
But after four years of fighting for safety improvements, Rigsby’s children said they fear nothing will ever get done.