The Idaho Department of Transportation plans to put new overhead lights and crossing arms at the railroad intersection where a Pocatello mother and her son were killed Thursday, but not until 1997.
Julie Bybee, 42, the mother of seven children, was killed along with son Tyler, 9, when their car was struck by a Union Pacific Railroad freight train.
Investigators said the woman stopped at the crossing, which is protected by flashing lights, until one train cleared. Then she pulled into the path of a train coming from the other direction, hidden from her view by the first train.
Trevor Bybee, 10, survived the accident and was listed in stable condition at Bannock Regional Medical Center. His father, Dr. Larry Bybee, is a Pocatello dentist. Julie Bybee was a first-grade teacher’s aide at the school where Tyler was a third-grader.
The accident remains under investigation, but preliminary findings indicate that Mrs. Bybee did not realize another train was coming on the second set of tracks, said Lt. Steve Findley of the Pocatello Police Department.
“It appears that the warning lights were still flashing, and the whistle on the train was still activated when the driver proceeded across the tracks,” he said.
The state decides where crossing arms are to be installed, but after that it is up to the railroad to maintain them, said John Bromley, Union Pacific spokesman in Omaha.
“Every time an accident happens there’s quite an emotional outcry,” Bromley said. “They don’t like to rush (to put arms on crossings) because then the list doesn’t mean anything.”
A fatal accident doesn’t necessarily mean a crossing will get additional equipment, Bromley said.
A railroad representative said until Thursday, there had been only two minor accidents at the crossing since 1991.