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Car-train crashes not new in Thorsby

THORSBY (AP) — The death of a 57-year-old Jemison woman in a car-train collision Friday night is becoming too routine news for the residents of this Chilton County town, where the train track is part of the town's legacy.

Dorothy Davis Fuller of Jemison was behind the wheel of her white sedan when she pulled in front of a northbound CSX train traveling through town at about 7 p.m. In the car with Fuller were two of her grandchildren, who were rescued from the mangled car that the train pushed about 1,000 feet down the track.

Fuller was pronounced dead at the scene. The children, ages 9 and 14, were taken to Children's Hospital in Birmingham.

"It's happened too much in Thorsby, I tell you that," said Thorsby Mayor Tom Bentley.

Earlier this month, four men died and four others were hurt when their van was hit by a train just south of the spot where Fuller died. Two men died about two years ago after their delivery truck was struck by a train in Thorsby.

Bentley's office at City Hall looks out across U.S. 31 at the tracks near the site of Friday's accident.

The tracks divide the town almost evenly.

Those tracks and the trains that run on them are the reason Thorsby exists.

"The town's 106 years old and for as long as it's existed, those tracks have been a part of life in this town," Bentley said.

Charles Payton has lived in Thorsby all of his 66 years and was the police chief at one time. He said lots of people have been killed on the town's tracks, although "I don't know if any body has ever kept count over the years."

"When I was chief I can remember any number of times we were down at those tracks pulling bodies out of cars or trucks," he said. "I remember an 8-year-old boy on a bike hit by a train when they would go through town so fast they were just a blur. That poor kid ..."

Bob Cates has lived in town for 77 years and agrees. "I don't know if we've ever had this many deaths in such a short time, but people getting killed out here is nothing new."

Cates thinks he knows why some people die.

"I've seen drivers for years who think they can beat the train. You can see them speed up trying to get across them (the tracks) before the train gets there, and some just don't make it."

Bentley said there are eight train crossings in the town - three with crossing arms that come down when a train moves through and five with warning signs, stop signs and speed bumps to slow down drivers.

"I don't know what else we can do that we haven't done to make these crossings safer except install the arms, and that's not up to the town," Bentley said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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