Family of Lincoln County accident victims want change at rail crossing

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 11:04 PM CST
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HARRISBURG, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - It’s been over a month since an accident at the railroad crossing at 274th Street left two dead. Now the family of those affected are asking for changes to be made at the crossing.

MORE: Names released in fatal train crash

Trains still cross the country road where over a month ago, it was the scene of a tragedy. A car was struck by a train, taking the lives of Jennifer and Kaylee Torgerson. Family from all over rushed back to the state.

“We got a call when we were in Florida on vacation with our kids. To have to hurry up and fly back for a situation like this, it was really traumatic.” Jodi Kuipers said, Jennifer’s twin sister and Kaylee’s aunt.

Since then, Kuipers has been pushing for change. She said in the month since the accident, she’s spoken with the Lincoln County Commission and the South Dakota Department of Transportation about the crossing, and the need for more safety features. Those conversations she hopes will lead to change.

“We’ve had a couple of conference calls with those folks. I think things are moving in the right direction. We’re waiting for a study to be done on this road that will hopefully be wrapped up by the end of the month, and then we’ll have a little more guidance,” Kuipers said. “I think it is important to be able to turn this tragedy into something else. I think it’s important to understand that there’s housing going up out here. There’s going to be a lot of travel on this road. If we can prevent another family from going through what we’ve gone through, then it’s all worth it.”

Kuipers said she’s heard from many in Harrisburg that hold the same feeling about the crossing; that there aren’t enough warning signs for oncoming trains, and the lack of vision on the tracks with trees and a water treatment facility in the way.

“I think the amount of people that have reached out with support has been overwhelming. They understand, and the ones that have had accidents out here, or relatives or friends that have had accidents out here, fully understand how dangerous it is.” Kuipers said.

Even if improved safety features are put into place, it won’t bring back Jennifer and Kaylee. But Kuipers said a change at the crossing is needed, even if it’s just a temporary solution until a permanent fix is in place, with Harrisburg continuing to grow and traffic growing on the road every year.

“At the end of the day, if we can prevent a tragedy happening to another family, then all of this would be worth it.” Kuipers said.