Traffic

Train series examines rail line’s danger

An unidentified man watches as rescue personnel work to remove passengers from a charter bus that was hit by a CSX train at the Main Street crossing in Biloxi on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
An unidentified man watches as rescue personnel work to remove passengers from a charter bus that was hit by a CSX train at the Main Street crossing in Biloxi on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Staff Writer Greg Lacour admits that railroad tracks never slowed him down.

“I used to drive pell-mell across the tracks,” he says, “but something I’ve done ever since I started working on the series is looking both ways — twice.”

The series he’s talking about is “Blood on the Tracks,” which begins today and runs through Wednesday.

It’s our most comprehensive look ever at one of the nation’s deadliest stretch of tracks, one that runs right through the heart of the three Coast counties.

Lacour, whose beats include transportation and the city of Gulfport, spent nearly three months researching and writing the series.

What he found was familiar to some — people do try to go through crossings — but also eye-opening.

“What strikes people the most about trains on the Coast,” he says, “is that they go so fast and that people think that that’s the most dangerous thing about them.

“How fast they go isn’t as big an issue as how well or poorly the crossings are marked.”

Lacour pulled most of his information from old news reports, mounds of statistics from Washington and Jackson, and interviews with victims and survivors of accidents.

But he also had a rare experience on a project like this: He actually saw an accident.

“I was there for an accident at Chicot Road in Pascagoula, June 16, trying to time a train with a radar gun.” He didn’t get the time, but he did see the train hit a car, resulting in injuries to three people.

Lacour, a 25-year-old graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, worked at The Natchez Democrat before coming to The Sun Herald in November 1993.

His series is one of our biggest projects of the year. We hope you’ll find time this restful Labor Day weekend to give it a read.

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