Family pushes for safety upgrades after deadly train accident

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A grandmother who was critically injured in a train accident is trying to protect other families.

Joan Gochenour lost one of her best friends in that accident.  Now, the crossing where the accident happened will be redone.

A car was destroyed by a train in the Aug. 2, 2011, accident. Two people were killed. Gochenour was the only survivor. She did not remember anything about the crash, but she now knows Pat Manion and her good friend, Alice Schooler, are dead.

“I miss her, every day,” said Joan Gochenour.

The three ladies were coming home after playing cards when they were hit by a 22-car train.  It was heading to Pittsburg when it collided with the gold Chevy Impala at the crossing on Highway 136, not far from Jamestown.  The two ladies in the front seat died instantly, Gochenour was flown to the hospital in critical condition. It was a long recovery process for the entire family.

“She is a the toughest fighter in Boone County, and I got to pick her out,” said Joan’s husband Jim Gochenour.

“Mom can not walk independently,” said Joan’s daughter Sheila Scott.  “She does have a traumatic brain injury.  This will affect her life, and my dad’s life forever.”

“I just wish I could walk again, I can’t walk, I can’t do anything,” said Joan Gochenour. “That really irritates me.”

According to INDOT, the last accident at the crossing dates back well before 1976.  After numerous complaints, and two people dying in that accident in 2011, the state stepped in and mandated changes.  Lights, robotic arms, and a bell must be added to the crossing.   Before the accident, there was only a railroad sign.

Of the 785 railroad crossings in Marion, and surrounding counties, fewer than half have any sort of warning devices.  The Gochenour family wants more to be done to make the crossings safer.

“If getting change just brings change to one person, one family, all of this will be worth it,” said Joan Gochenour’s daughter Sue Nolan.

Visiting his wife in the hospital every day for a year, and fearing she may not make it are emotions Jim Gochenour does not want anyone else to be put through.

“No, I do not want anyone else (to go through it). No,” said Gochenour.

Joan Gochenhour still requires around-the-clock care.  Those changes at the railroad crossing, the arm, the lights, the bell, must be complete by January of 2014.  Members of INDOT stress, more warning devices are not a crash cure-all when it comes to accidents.


  • Pam

    My father drives a school bus which has to cross this track daily. He has had commented about hating it because there are blind spots because of the homes and the angle the road crosses these tracks. Growing up and even now as an experienced driver I also dislike this crossing. Don't make sense that they placed crossing arms on some crossing that have a clear view both directions for great distances.

  • RedStateVet

    The last accident at this crossing was 36 years ago? It seems to me that checking to see that there is a train coming can't be that difficult.

    • Diana

      I am sorry for this Lady or anyone else who gets hurt by a train. But correct me if I am wrong. Train Crossings are just what they are. You stop you look, and if you don't see a train listen for one before you cross tracks. If you get hit by a train crossing a track I can't see it would be any ones fault but your own. That is of course if the train de-rails. I don't get it. I see people all the time stopping on tracks when a stop light is red. They do not stop at all if there is no rails down or they go around the rails to cross so they can beat the train. Give me a situation where the train hit a car crossing tracks that was not the drivers fault, that is with the exception of a stall on the track then you get out of the car as quick a possible.

  • John Howard

    Maybe I'm the only one who stops, turns off the radio, and rolls down the windows to listen for oncoming trains as well as looking. Never had a problem.

  • MeatPlow

    Sorry for this poor lady and her friends.
    However RR crossings are still a good test of Darwin's theory of evolution. I especially love the morons that stop on the track in traffic. That extra 30' will get you to your destination no faster, unless your destination is dead.

  • cjmo2662

    While I do feel more secure at railroad crossings that have arms or even just flashing red lights, there are always going to be people who want to try to beat a train. Don't they realize that if they lose the game 9 times out of 10 they WILL die? If you're stupid enough to play chicken with a train, I feel sorry for your family who will have to bury you!

  • indy

    This railroad crossing isn't like most where you're able to stop before the tracks, look both ways, etc. Like already mentioned on here, I too stop, look both ways, turn off the air conditioner and radio and then proceed to cross the tracks. At this crossing, you have to turn your head completely to the left – and then some – to get a sneak peek. The front 1/3 to 1/2 of your car is ON the tracks before you can get a good look. There wasn't even a stop sign on the day of this accident, although one was put up the day after. If any of you naysayers are ever touched by this kind of tragedy in the future, you will learn very quickly the importance of safety measures needing to be added to keep everyone safe. If Indiana makes the improvements needed to their rail crossings, you'll never have to worry about it for yourself or loved ones. You should be thanking those trying to get these changes made. They're trying to protect future 'would-be' victims.

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