North Idaho

Driver killed in collision with train near Rathdrum

RATHDRUM, Idaho - Kootenai County deputies are investigating a deadly train and car crash which happened early Thursday morning east of Rathdrum.

The collision happened around 7:30 a.m. at Ramsey and Boekel Roads.

According to the train engineer, the woman, later identified as 22-year-old Rebecca Birdsong, was driving southbound on Ramsey Road, briefly stopped at the stop sign, but did not yield to the approaching train. The engineer did not have time to stop and hit her car on the driver's side.

Birdsong was killed in the crash.

Fatal car vs train collision Rathdrum prairie

The intersection where she tried to cross the tracks is marked with a stop sign and a railroad crossing sign, but doesn't have cross arms or lights.

"The vehicle was southbound on Ramsey Road, stopped at the stop sign and pulled out in front of the train. Was right there. It hit almost dead center on the side of the car," Major Ben Wolfinger with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department said.

The train finally stopped about a mile down the tracks. Wolfinger said it looks like this was an accident.

According to Operation Life Saver, an organization dedicated to reducing railroad accidents, there are a couple factors that determine which crossings have active warning devices versus passive.

One is the number of cars using the crossing and second is the number of trains going through the area.

Also, it costs about $250,000 to put in a system with the cross arms and lights. It's paid for by taxpayers and then maintained by the railroad companies.

"It's incumbent on the driver to stop and yield and look," Wolfinger said.

Operation Life Saver reports that 25-percent of railroad accidents happen with cross arms and lights, so it's not the perfect solution.

Local law enforcement has an emphasis patrol coming up next month to help keep railroad intersections safer.

"Pretty frequently we'll see a lot of folks. They'll stop for a stop sign and a train crossing but they won't look left or right and they'll just continue because that's why they normally do," Lieutenant Stu Miller with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department said.