St. George residents say train accident could have been avoided with lights, markers

Willis. (Source: Brandi Willis)

by Stacy

ST. GEORGE, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Grover Volunteer Fire Department had 11 members Sunday. Monday, there were only 10.

"He is an active member, an over-achiever," Dorchester County Fire Chief Tres Atkinson said.

St. George police said Richard Willis, 27,{}died Sunday afternoon after witnesses said{}he ran a stop sign on Ann Street and hit a passing train head-on with his Chevrolet{}pick-up truck.

"I've been here five years and I've never seen anything happen like that," said Nancy Chaney, who lives along the railroad tracks in St. George.

Witnesses said the train hit the car, causing it to flip and land several feet away upside down. Neighbors said{}they couldn't{}remember anything like that happening by the railroad tracks. But, they also said they thought changes could make the area safer.

"I was out here one day smoking. I heard the train. It had no lights on," Mary Lyons said.

Lyons said she crossed the tracks on her scooter often. She said the trains were usually loud and bright, but not always. She thought there should be clearer markers, like the lights at the intersection one block south of Ann Street.

"I think all railroad tracks should have them," Lyons said.

Chaney said the trains are so loud that you always know a train is approaching.

"My son has heard it on the phone when I talk to him. One went by this morning and he said, 'Mama here comes your train,'" she said.

Still, she said signs and{}noise{}may not be enough.

"They could put some lights up. If they put the lights on, that would tell people there's a train there if you're not paying attention," Chaney said.

Willis's wife said{}he also left three children behind.

St. George Mayor Anne Johnston said she thought the intersection had adequate signs. She plans to meet with the town engineer Tuesday to go over any plans for changes.