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Woman loses race with railroad and survives

Jamie Luck/Special to the Daily Planet
Thursday May 09, 2002

A 25-year-old woman was probably happy to receive a citation Wednesday from the Union Pacific Police, particularly since she was alive and well enough to accept it. 

Oakland resident Nikkca Young drove her silver Toyota Corolla around the railroad crossing arm at 3rd and Addison streets around 12:15 p.m., ignoring the flashing red lights, and within a moment felt the impact of a freight train traveling at 48 mph. 


The southbound Burlington Northern local train stopped further down the tracks from the crossing where it cruised through the tail-end of Young’s vehicle, and fortunately no-one onboard was injured. After a brief examination by the Berkeley Fire Department, Young herself was released. 

“To walk away from something like that with no serious injuries is remarkable, but I wouldn’t count on it happening again,” said Union Pacific spokesman Mike Furtney. “People should not think that surviving such an accident is a common occurence.” 

Union Pacific investigator Ed Jesus, who has only been on the Alameda County beat for the last two months, said it is the second such accident he has seen in Berkeley. 

Though a crowd of Berkeley’s police responded quickly to the scene and made the initial inquiries, the case fell within Union Pacific Police’s jurisdiction, so Jesus took over. When asked how frequently such accidents occur here, one officer responded “with irritating regularity--but don’t quote me on that,” and winked.  

The explosive sound from the incident brought workers from local businesses, who gathered around to survey the scene. “Never race a train,” admonished one bystander.  

According to a study done by the California Public Utilities Commission in 1999, the last available year for railroad accident statistics in the state, 204 railroad crossing accidents were reported, with 23 resulting in fatalities and 73 injured. California holds the second place in the nation for the most vehicle-related railroad accidents.