Mom Ignores Crossing Signal, Drives Into Oncoming Train: Two Kids Killed

Wed, April 3, 2013 7:00pm EDT by 22 Comments
Iowa Kids Killed Train
Courtesy of Facebook

A mother of three made a terrible mistake when she drove into a freight train as it was crossing the tracks — her minivan was struck and two of her kids were killed.

Tara Lewman, 25 and her son, Jordan survived the terrible accident, but they were taken by helicopter to Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Tara’s daughters, Erika, 4 and Kallie, 5, however, were thrown from the 2004 Dodge minivan and died.

State Patrol Explains Why The Mother Didn’t Brake

Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright explained that Tara saw a stopped train on the tracks in front of her, so instead of obeying the warning cross arms, she drove past the first train and into a different, oncoming freight train.

“She could not see because the train was blocking the view,” said Bright.

Railroad Crew Worked Hard To Revive The Girls

Batavia Fire Chief, Dave Wells, talked about the railroad crew’s efforts to help the children.

“When our guys got there, the railroad people were already doing CPR on one of  the kids,” said Dave. “It’s a very sad thing. Crashes with small children are never easy to deal with.”

Family Member & School Speak Out About Terrible Accident

Bert Lewman, Tara’s uncle talked about her alleged unwise decision to cross the train tracks.

“She knew better,” said Bert. “‘She shouldn’t have ridden with the arm down, but it’s just one of those things.”

Cardinal Community School District in Eldon was the school that Tara’s daughters attended. The school district posted a Facebook message referring to the tragedy.

“‘We are working  with staff and students to process this loss.”

Our thoughts are with Tara’s family at this sad time.

– Nicole Weaver

More Tragic Car Stories:

  1. Pregnant Mom Dies In Car Crash — Baby Is Delivered Alive
  2. Newborn Baby Dies Day After Parents Killed In Car Crash
  3. NASCAR Crash Caught On Fan Video — Tire Flies Into Crowd, Hits Woman

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Posted at 12:06 PM on December 2, 2013  

Lucinda P. You hit the nail right on the head. Good job.

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Bob Comer

Posted at 10:56 PM on November 28, 2013  

YOU SAY, “Very sad situation…” What you refuse to acknowledge is railroad responsibility for safety at RR crossings. That’s an extremely “sad situation!”
YOU talk like a railroad excuse-maker. The State Police got it right–the parked train blocked her view of the 2nd train.

SO, what if that had been a police car, a fire truck or an ambulance coming up to that crossing on that particular day?
If the police car, fire truck or ambulance was on an emergency call and had to get across that crossing and got hit, what would you say? See, people like
you are so busy making excuses for the railroad that you miss the fact that it could have been EMS rushing someone to a hospital and they had to get over that crossing.
The bottom line is simple and has to do with RR responsibility to safeguard public safety. It’s in federal law all the way back to the 1800’s. The circumstances CLEARLY show that the MOW workers were blocking the view of the second track, that they had a responsibility under BNSF Operating rules to flag the crossing AND THEY DIDN’T DO IT! So, maybe you can explain to all of us in cyberland why you are ignoring the facts and making really stupid and irrational claims against the driver. If it had been YOUR family members, maybe, just maybe, you would be singing a different tune or shutting up.

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lucinda p

Posted at 10:23 PM on November 28, 2013  

There is a very good chance this woman can do jail time. I have seen where people like this are brought up on charges. People who drive like this put everones lives in danger. Very sad situation but remember that everyone is responsible for there own actions.

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Bob Comer

Posted at 4:24 AM on November 1, 2013  

DID YOU MISS THIS? It;s right out of the BNSF Railway Operating Rules!

6.32.5 Actuating Automatic Warning Devices Unnecessarily
Avoid actuating automatic warning devices unnecessarily by leaving switches open or permitting equipment to stand within the controlling circuit. If this cannot be avoided and if the signals are equipped for manual operation, a crew member must manually operate the signal for movement of traffic. A crew member must restore signals to automatic operation before a train or engine occupies the crossing or before it leaves the crossing.
6.32.6 Blocking Public Crossings
When work is performed on or near a crossing protected by an automatic warning device, and if the work performed affects automatic warning device, provide protection.

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lucinda p

Posted at 12:14 AM on November 3, 2013  

Nope, I did not miss anything. Looks like you took my advice and used some initiative to look up the rule. That is the only way you are going to learn.

Now, I hope you have a better understanding that just because mow forces are working on or around the track that they DO NOT necessary have to flag the crossing. Keep in mind that it is AGAINST THE LAW to run around crossing gates. That is just suicide. That is one of the biggest problems I see with impatient drivers. With the train stopped at the crossing with the other train coming the CROSSING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE FLAGGED. Again, the gates were down. The driver was COMPLETELY AT FAULT. I hope this helps you understand operating rules better.

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Marshmallow CHAOS

Posted at 10:58 AM on April 4, 2013  

This is sheer stupidity and impatience. Clearly everybody at some point or another probably makes a stupid heat of the moment decision but crossing in front of a train with your kids in the car is beyond stupid and impatient, it’s negligent. Also, the preview of this article said the two girls got THROWN from the car, does that mean they weren’t wearing seat belts?!!!!!!!!

IF they weren’t wearing seat belts then this lady should not be allowed to have any more kids!

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Marshmallow—-Let’s see—YOU weren’t there so how do you know what really happened? YOU DON’T! The stopped train was too close to the crossing and blocking driver’s views of any train coming on the next track. The police even said so—DID YOU MISS THAT??? In the business, that is called a “booby-trapped crossing.” SO, what would YOU do if you came to that crossing and a train was stopped close by and YOU couldn’t see any train coming on the second track? Would YOU turn around and go another way? AND, how do you know that the lights were flashing and the gates were down just before the crash. YOU DON’T BECAUSE YOU WEREN’T THERE!
There have been a huge number of similar train-vehicle crashes all over our country because a train crew parked a train close to a street-road crossing so they could easily change crews. Sometimes, the stopped train is there for an hour or more! The Track Circuit goes into “time-out” and the flashing lights go OFF and the gates go UP. If a moving train approaches the crossing on the next track, the Track Circuit computer is supposed to detect it AND reactivate the flashing lights and gates. BUT, on numerous occasions, the system didn’t work and the lights and gates DID NOT reactivate. Just because the lights were flashing and the gates were down AFTER the crash, does not mean that they were working before the crash. BOTTOM LINE: I get really sick and tired of seeing people use their computer to post comments on the Internet when they know ZERO–NOTHING about how lights and gates are activated and how the Track Circuit can fail. WHY do you suppose the Texas DPS in Austin gets over 300 calls a week from motorists reporting malfunctioning flashing lights and gates at RR crossings? Do you suppose there just might be something wrong with this 1872-invented Track Circuit??? SO, please, go watch “Dancing with the Stars” and forget about making really ignorant comments.

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Posted at 4:54 PM on April 6, 2013  

@ Bob C. AMEN to your comment

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THANKS! It is quite clear to me (and I have been working with computers since 1968), that there are a bunch of people who make Internet comments about horrible incidents and these folks are clueless about the whole situation. Would they tell a surgeon how to do an operation on a brain? Probably! My guess is that these same numb-skulls also voted for people like Bush, Cheney, Mitt the $250 million Twitt and Sooo-Pathetic Palin. Bottom line: It’s a national epidemic of “air between the ears.”

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lucinda p

Posted at 11:10 PM on October 30, 2013  

Bob C,, you are an idoit. YOU ALSO WERE NOT THERE. The gates were down.GET IT. SHE broke the LAW. What part of that do you not understand. You are a Barney Fife wanna be.

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Bob Comer

Posted at 12:07 AM on October 31, 2013  

Let’s see—you can’t spell so maybe you didn’t finish kindergarten. You failed to see what law enforcement said about the incident. SO, if you come to a RR crossing and there is a train stopped nearby and the lights are flashing and the gates are down, how long will you sit there and wait? 10 minutes, 20, 30–an hour? See, what you seem to not know is that the railroad had a responsibility to FLAG the crossing with a person so that this type of crash doesn’t happen. The same thing that happened to this lady and her children could have happened to an ambulance, fire truck or police car. THAT’S WHAT YOU DON’T GET! One more time—the RR was working on one track and had a train stopped on that track, close to the crossing. With a second track, there was the possibility of a train coming to the crossing and hidden by the stopped train. THE CROSSING SHOULD HAVE BEEN FLAGGED and THERE ARE LAWS ABOUT THAT. IF THE M-O-W crew had followed RR rules and laws, they would have FLAGGED the crossing with a person directing traffic around the lowered gates and this crash never would have happened. Also, why was the moving train going so fast? With the situation at the crossing, it should have been going 5 mph!

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lucinda p

Posted at 1:22 AM on October 31, 2013  

Bob C, I misspelled idiot to see if you were paying attention. You obviously do not know railroad rules. Just because mow was working on or near the track DOES NOT MEAN THEY HAVE TO FLAG THE CROSSING. The gates were DOWN. The LAW requires vehicle traffic to STOP. I guess you did not read that the uncle stated rhat she made a very UNWISE decision. You ask how long should you wait, well common sense tells you when the train clears and the GATES go UP. Pretty simple HUH. The other train DOES NOT have to go 5 mph, again gates are down. What part of that do you not understand. I suggest you buy a rule book off of ebay and do a little reading,, you just might learn something. See, you seem not to have a clue about when a crossing needs to be FLAGGED.

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Bob Comer

Posted at 10:28 AM on October 31, 2013  

YOU are the one who doesn’t know railroad rules and regulations. A train, under federal rules, is only allowed to block a crossing—parked close to it, causing the warning devices to be activated, for 5 minutes. IF longer than 5 minutes, a crew member, the Conductor, has to use a flag and direct traffic. If you would do a little research, you would find out that the Maintenance-of-Way crew in this terrible incident, violated their own RR rules and federal rules by failing to flag the 2-track crossing. They set up a “death trap” and that is exactly what happened. Oh, BTW, I have testified as an Expert Witness at trial. My guess is that YOU haven’t.

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lucinda p

Posted at 12:48 PM on October 31, 2013  

Crossining protection must be provided when..

1 crossing gates are NOT in lowered position.
2 flazhing lights are not actuated at least 20 seconds before rue movement fouls the crossing.
3 automatic grade crossing warning devices are provided, but circuits are not provided for all tracks and one of such tracks is to be used

I think you are getting confused between activation failure and false activation. This is easy when you do not know how the rules are applied.

I consult rules application….DO YOU

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lucinda p

Posted at 12:53 PM on October 31, 2013  

Make that flashing lights and movement fouls the crossing…

Sorry for the typo. I did not want to confuse you any more than you already are.

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Posted at 10:42 AM on April 4, 2013  

She already has her punishment-mental anguish……

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Posted at 6:42 AM on April 4, 2013  

Most states have made the necessary corrections at train crossings to prevent collisions like this with the installation of gates that “Do Not” leave any room for a car to cross when they are down

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Posted at 10:56 PM on April 3, 2013  

I went to school with her. My prayers n thoughts go out to her n her family. RIP to her babies that list their lives.

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Posted at 7:43 PM on April 3, 2013  

This wasn’t an accident. This was a woman who didn’t obey the signals and her children paid the price. I don’t even think she should go to jail. She has gotten her punishment and will continue to suffer the loss of these beautiful little girls.
I say if you are in a car by yourself, feel free to take stupid chances. If your kids or someone else is riding with you, think of them first! You have their lives in your hand.
People are so distracted while driving these days it’s ridiculous!

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Posted at 7:19 PM on April 3, 2013  

Not to come off mean but could she have been depressed after having the baby and tried to kill herself with the kids. It’s happened before. Also how did the kids get thrown from the train, clearly they weren’t in any type of car seat like they are supposed to be.

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Posted at 4:19 AM on April 4, 2013  

That what i was wondering? WHere were the car seats? How sad…I never chance it, its just not worth it. Poor kids.

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Posted at 9:52 AM on April 4, 2013  

I thought that at first too but then i re-read. There was one train she could see that stopped so she started driving past that one BUT what she didnt know was there was another train coming that she couldnt see because of the other one blocking it.

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