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.

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