The Colorado family was on their way to church when their minivan was hit by the train travelling from Chicago to Los Angeles at an intersection that has long been a point of concern.
Although the crossing has reportedly been the site of six accidents since 1986, there were no gates or flashing lights at the railroads, which are only marked by warning signs that read “railroad crossing.”
The accident involving the Millers – parents Stephen and Christina, and their four daughters ages 6, 4, 2, and 8 months – marks the seventh collision at the site.
A 2010 accident was the only other fatal incident, the Associated Press reports.
According the Post, the family was discovered when Christina’s cousin grew anxious after they didn’t show up for church.
“We were at church and when they didn’t show up for church, we were worried about what was going on,” Keith Schlabach told the newspaper. “We thought they were broken down or something. One of the other guys was driving back from church towards Steve’s house to see what happened, and then he got to the tracks.”
A GoFundMe account set up by family members, identifies the girls as Abigail, 6, Kathryn, 2, Ellianna, 8 months, and 4-year-old Heidi, who was flown from Trinidad, Colorado, where the accident occurred, to Denver. Trinidad is about 200 miles south of the state’s capitol city.
Heidi suffered serious injuries in the accident, but is said to be in stable condition at Children’s Hospital Colorado. State Trooper Art Gumke told the AP that Mr. Miller was behind the wheel when the van was struck by the train as it moved across the tracks.
A 2013 proposal to install flashing lights and barriers around the tracks was approved two weeks ago by the Las Animas County commissioners office, but has yet to be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, which is required before construction can begin, the AP reports.
“I don’t know what took so long,” county administrator Leeann Fabec told the Post. “That crossing has been there for probably 80 years. It’s a rural road that’s heavily used. I’m surprised myself that it took so long to come to the forefront.”
According to the newspaper, the $271,000 contract was signed, as state transportation officials thought that the site needed significant renovations in regards to safety.
Along with gates and flashing lights, the safety overhaul will also reportedly include bells and a constant warning system.