HARRISBURG, SD (KELO) — City leaders in Harrisburg say it was a “no-brainer” approving funding for warning lights at a railroad crossing where two people died in a pickup-versus-train crash last month.
The deadly crash killed passengers 45-year-old Jennifer Torgerson and 12-year-old Kaylee Torgerson. The 44-year-old driver, Phil Torgerson, was seriously injured.
The crash was a blow to the entire community.
“It affected a lot of people. I mean, the daughter had so many friends in the middle school and mother and the parents had church friends,” Harrisburg Mayor Derick Wenck said.
As a result of the crash, the city council voted unanimously to spend nearly $86-hundred to install solar-powered, flashing lights to warn drivers at the crossing of any approaching trains.
“It’s actually great for the city because we won’t need to run a power line through the ditch to be able to power this, so it’s an easy solution we can implement quickly,” City of Harrisburg Director of Communications Larry Klipfel said.
The warning lights are only a temporary fix. Eventually, the South Dakota Department of Transportation will install crossing arms, like these, that will go down whenever a train is approaching.
“Even if you didn’t see it, or the sun was in your eyes, they’ll hit that crossing guard and know that they’ve got to hit their brakes, so it will be a lot safer,” Wenck said.
Mayor Wenk is convinced that the deadly crash would have been avoided if crossing arms were present.
“I would have to 100-percent agree that if those crossing guards would have been down, that they would have seen the train and slowed down and stop. Definitely,” Wenck said.
Wenck says he’s not aware of any other traffic close calls at the railroad crossing. But he says the improvements will be a worthwhile investment by the community to prevent any future tragedies along the tracks.
The City of Harrisburg will also be asking the Burlington Northern Railroad to replace the yield sign at the crossing with a stop sign.