NEW KENT, Va. (WRIC) — There are renewed calls for action after another life was taken by a passing train in New Kent last week.
45-year-old Kevin Pence, from Mechanicsville, was hit and killed last Thursday. Just about three months prior, 56-year-old Freeda Pruitt was hit and killed at the neighboring railroad crossing just steps away. Data shows us before that, more people were either killed, injured, or had property damaged by passing trains throughout the years.
Family of the victims and others in the area say the railroad crossings need lit crossing arms.
“The people that you would think would be responsible are just throwing their hands up and saying ‘it’s not my job,” said Jennifer Jones, Pruitt’s daughter.
New Kent county leaders are deciding Pence’s death was the final straw. They’re now asking the state and federal government for help. “A history of too many accidents have occurred here and too many deaths,’ said district five supervisor John Lockwood in an interview Monday.
Lockwood said concerns over the three crossings have lingered for years. At Outpost road near Rockahock Road, the crossing where Pence died, “it is a business with a lot of traffic through here,” he said. Lockwood said because of that, the Rockahock road intersection is the riskiest of the three.
Rockahock Campground owns Rockahock Road, where campers are constantly crossing onto Outpost road. “Private crossing” signs are posted on both sides of the railroad tracks — but there are no crossing arms or lights.
“We had a dear friend lose their life last night and it’s terrifying that we might lose somebody else,” said the owner of Rockahock Campground last week.
On Monday, 8News asked Lockwood why safety equipment, like crossing arms, haven’t been added on the private roads. He answered: money — or lack of it.
CSX Transportation owns the track itself, but crossings on private roads don’t get much help from anyone.
“Preliminary numbers that I’ve heard are close to a half a million dollars to put a lighted gate crossing,’ said Lockwood. Becuase it’s a private road and crossing, he said the county isn’t technically responsible. Still, the board of supervisors is now calling on the state and federal government for financial help.
“We’re gonna ask everybody from the governor’s office to the senators of virginia to help us resolve this situation because it’s not financially feasible for a property owner to be able to put up a crossing like that,” he said. “There is no reason to not take this bull by the horns and get it resolved.”
The supervisor said Congressman Rob Whitman and State Delegate Scott Wyatt have already pledged to help.
“We are going to get something significant done in order to make these crossings safer,” Lockwood said.
In the meantime, supervisors are planning some sort of short term solution. Lockwood said details on that will likely be finalized at a Wednesday morning’s board of supervisors meeting.
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.