Two dead as train, van collide
BATAVIA – A train and minivan collided Monday afternoon in Batavia, leaving two children dead and two more people injured.
The Iowa State Patrol reported Erika Clark, 4, and Kallie Clark, 5, were riding in the minivan and were killed in the collision. Another passenger, Jordan Clark, 1, and the driver, Tara Lewman, 25, were flown via AirCare to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
The Iowa State Patrol reported Lewman’s vehicle was northbound just after 4 p.m. on Fourth Street in Batavia when she stopped for the crossing arm at the railroad crossing.
A press release from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office stated witnesses reported a train parked east of the crossing on the south tracks. Witnesses reported the crossing arms were down and the bell and lights were functioning.
The sheriff’s office’s press release stated Lewman proceeded around the crossing arm and was then struck on the passenger side by a westbound train on the north tracks. The minivan struck the west side crossing arm structure and came to rest in a ravine 50 feet from the crossing. Erika and Kallie were pronounced dead at the scene.
Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Russ Morey wrote in his report the other train stopped near the crossing may have kept Lewman from seeing the oncoming train.
Members of the state patrol could not be reached for comment as of press time today.
Amy McBeth, public affairs director for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, said her company’s main concern is the family and assisting law enforcement.
“We’re not in a position to share any details of the incident,” she said. “Right now, we’re focused on the family and working with local officials.”
Jefferson County Sheriff Gregg Morton said his office had not received any reports about problems with the stop arms at that intersection. He said the state patrol spoke with railroad workers at the scene as part of its investigation.
Morton said the state patrol took the lead in investigating the collision because it involved fatalities and the state patrol has officers with technical expertise in investigating those cases.
“With these multiple injuries, the sheriff’s office was busy trying to save lives,” Morton said. “The state patrol was gracious enough to handle the paperwork-side and the investigation while we were dealing with the families and the scene itself. So much work has to be done on something of this magnitude.
“My heart goes out to the family in a big way. I have nothing but praise for the first responders, deputies, troopers, firefighters and everyone else in a case like this.”