Whitewater fire chief wants to hear from residents

Following a Jan. 23 collision between a semi tractor-trailer and a train on K-196 west of Whitewater, the community's emergency preparedness people are planning to appeal to Kansas Department of Transportation for additional warning signals.

Whitewater fire chief Darryl Claassen submitted a request in the city newsletter asking area residents to contact him if they have experienced a close call at the crossing on K-196.

He noted "the approach from the west is treacherous for any large truck, semi, or even pickup-trailer combination."

Eastbound traffic tops a hill on the approach to the crossing. The hill is steep enough that drivers cannot see over it on the approach. By the time a vehicle is on the descent, it is so close to the crossing that stopping becomes difficult if not impossible.

Claassen also voiced concern for other vehicles that might be stopped on the west side while waiting for the train to clear the crossing. Trees also grow along the highway and the tracks creating additional obstacles.

As emergency responders in Whitewater review the recent collision, they are grateful that hazardous chemicals were not involved and that there were no injuries.

"When a truck or train is involved, we must research the possibility (that it carried) hazardous material," said Claassen. "The train is a constant mover of such material. Within minutes of arriving on the scene, we must make a determination on the best way to protect the local population in the event of a spillage."

He is looking for other people in the area who may use the highway to travel to Wichita or Newton and who might have had a close call at the train crossing.

"There are additional warning signals that can be put in place if the Kansas Department of Transportation is willing to make a study," he said.

Anyone interested in contributing a narrative about an incident at the crossing on K-196 should send it to Darryl Claassen, 10633 N.W. Indianola Road, Whitewater KS 67154. For more information or answers to questions, contact Claassen at 316-799-2782.