HARRISBURG, South Dakota (now Dakota News) — It’s been more than a month since an accident at a railroad crossing on 274th Street killed two people. Now, the families of those affected are demanding that the intersection be remodeled.
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The train still runs through the country road, which was the scene of a tragedy more than a month ago. A car was hit by a train, claiming the lives of Jennifer and Kelly Torgerson. Families everywhere rushed back to the state.
“While we were vacationing in Florida with the kids, we got a call. It was heartbreaking to have to fly back home,” said Jodi Kuipers, Jennifer’s twin sister and Kaylee’s aunt.
Since then, Kuipers has been driving change. She said she spoke with the Lincoln County Commission and the South Dakota Department of Transportation in the month after the crash about the crossing and the need for more security. She hopes these conversations will lead to change.
“We’ve had a couple of calls with these guys. I think things are moving in the right direction. We’re waiting on a study down the road, hopefully by the end of the month, and then we’ll have more guidance ,” Kuipers said. “I think it’s important to be able to turn this tragedy into something else. I think it’s important to understand that housing is going up here. There’s going to be a lot of travel down the road. If we can stop another family from going through what we’ve been through, Then it’s all worth it.”
Kuipers said she’s heard from many people in Harrisburg who feel the same way about the intersection; there aren’t enough warning signs for oncoming trains, and there’s a lack of visibility on the tracks with trees and water treatment.
“I think the number of people reaching out to help is overwhelming. They understand that people who have had an accident here, or relatives and friends who have had an accident here, fully understand how dangerous it is,” Coopers said.
Even improved security features won’t bring Jennifer and Kelly back. But Kuipers said the intersection needs to change, even if it’s only a temporary solution until permanent fixes are put in place, and Harrisburg continues to grow, with traffic on the road increasing every year.
“At the end of the day, it’s all worth it if we can prevent tragedy from happening to another family,” Coopers said.
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