Local News

Preventable train-car collision injures two teenagers

KOOTENAI COUNTY, Wash. - According to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, 18-year-old Austin Wiseman was driving on a Union Pacific owned service road near North Huetter and Lancaster Road, parallel to the tracks.

A collision between a teenager's car and a train was entirely preventable, had the teen had not been trying to outrun it.

When it comes to train crossings, there are two rules that drivers are asked to follow: Do not tresspass on railroad property, and do not try to race a train.

But that's exactly what happened at near Rathdrum yesterday.

A train was heading west, and Wiseman sped up, trying to race  it. But, he turned sharply, southbound on Huetter, and was hit by the train.

Wiseman and his passenger, 15-year-old Brandie Zaring had to be cut out of the car.

Wiseman is still at Kootenai Health in critical condition. Zaring has been released, and is home with her family.

A tragedy, but one that was entirely preventable.

“Our obvious goal is to get to zero incidents,” said Union Pacific spokesperson Justin Jacobs.

That's the goal of Operation Lifesaver, a program that began in Idaho in 1972 with the goal of preventing train-car collisions.

Operation LifeSaver took KXLY out on an enforcement on Wednesday, the day before this crash.

Local law enforcement officers board a train, and keep an eye on the crossings. If a driver or pedestrian fails to follow the rules, they get a ticket.

“The whole mission behind this is to remind everyone that trains always have the right of way,” said Travis Campbell with Operation Idaho Lifesaver.

A bummer for drivers, but Operation Lifesaver hopes it deters them from trying to race trains, preventing collisions that almost always end in tragedy.

“An average freight train weighs twelve million pounds, that's 6,000 tons. The weight ratio between the train and your car, is the same as the weight ratio between your car and a soda can,” Campbell said. “You run over a soda can? That's exactly what the train could do to your sedan,” he said.