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Rail crossing to get lights, gates

Fatal crash at crossing in 1996

Staff writer

A railroad crossing that was the site of a fatal crash 12 years ago will get a crossbar and flashing lights, Marion County Commission was told Nov. 24.

“My prayers have been answered,” a relieved Lavonne Ammeter, of rural Florence, said. She doesn’t want anyone else to go through the same tragedy as when her husband, Sherwin Ammeter, was killed in a truck-train crash at the crossing.

Sherwin Ammeter, 66, was driving a loaded truck Sept. 10, 1996 from Mid-Kansas Co-op of Peabody to Walton. He crashed with a train of two engines without any cars, Lavonne Ammeter said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. Two Union Pacific employees were injured in the crash.

Lavonne Ammeter said she suspects he was temporarily blinded by the sun and didn’t see the engines until it was too late to stop.

There also were trees that obstructed the view of the tracks.

“It comes right up on you,” Ammeter said.

A friend stopped at the Ammeters’ home and told her of the crash but said Sherwin wasn’t the one in the crash. Immediately after the friend left, Lavonne Ammeter saw a Kansas Highway Patrol car pull into the driveway, and she knew something awful happened.

The patrolman was in tears as he walked up to give Ammeter the news, she said.

The funeral was Sept. 13, 1996, and so many people attended there was not enough room for everyone at United Methodist Church in Peabody.

“A lawyer called me from Colorado, begging me to sue the railroad,” Ammeter said. But she didn’t want to relive the events in court.

“I don’t go down that road, because I just can’t,” Ammeter said.

Kansas Department of Transportation and Union Pacific Railroad asked the county for permission to upgrade the crossing on 30th Road between Mustang and Nighthawk, south of Peabody, Marion County Road and Bridge Superintendent John Summerville said.

Placement of flashing lights and crossbars on rail crossings are decided by states, according to a press release from Union Pacific Railroad. Federal funds pay for the upgrades, which are constructed by the railroad.

Crossings are prioritized based on a combination of train and road traffic, said Kansas Department of Transportation Bureau of Design coordinating engineer Mitch Sothers. The cost of an upgrade is about $200,000. Construction generally takes about 15 months.

Last modified Dec. 17, 2008

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