March 25, 1997 in Idaho

Driver Killed When Train Rams Van That Rolled Onto Tracks

By The Spokesman-Review

A Coeur d’Alene man died Monday after his van stopped in front of an oncoming train.

Gary C. Callihan, 43, died when the Burlington Northern train hit his van near the intersection of Ramsey and Diagonal roads, said Idaho State Police.

Callihan had spent the day logging in the woods with his brother. He was on his way home, driving south on Ramsey Road about 3:15 p.m.

The train was headed north on the tracks at about 55 mph. The railroad crossing is marked with both a white railroad sign and a stop sign.

The engineer told an ISP officer that he saw Callihan’s van approach the intersection.

“He said he came almost to a stop and then just rolled forward like in slow motion, like he couldn’t decide if he should go or stop,” said Cpl. Sean Daly.

The van stopped on the tracks.

The train, more than a mile long, then smashed into it. “When you have that many pounds it’s not like the train can stop,” Daly said.

The impact crushed the front end of the van and flipped it over, scattering boots, hats, a chain saw, Thermos and other items along the roadway.

Callihan was not wearing a seat belt when the train struck. He was thrown from the van, landing about 90 feet from the tracks.

Part of the van’s front fender still hung on the train as police searched through the wreckage Monday afternoon.

“I told my husband we would have lots and lots of accidents here,” said Carla Semanko, who lives near the site of Monday’s wreck.

Semanko said many drivers either don’t stop at the railroad crossing and stop sign on Ramsey or don’t look carefully when they do.

Trains pass through the intersection about every 15 minutes.

“You have to stop, even if you think there’s nothing there,” she said. “Stop and look again.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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