Scott D. Benton, Chief of Police
20 Essex St
Whitman, MA 02382
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Contact: Benjamin Paulin
Whitman Police Will Not Cite Van Driver Following Investigation into Incident at Railroad Crossing
WHITMAN — Chief Scott D. Benton reports that the Whitman Police Department will not cite or charge the driver of a school minivan that came within feet of being struck by a commuter rail train on Essex Street yesterday.
The investigation into the incident was completed Tuesday and it was determined that the driver did what he could to prevent being hit by the train.
At approximately, 5:15 p.m. on Monday, April 9, Whitman Police received a notification that a train nearly struck a van at a railroad crossing on Essex Street.
A video taken by a witness driving behind the van was obtained and reviewed by Whitman Police.
One Whitman student and an adult passenger, who is a monitor for the student on board, were being transported inside the minivan at the time. The van and the train did not collide and there were no reports of any injuries. The van is owned by North River Collaborative, a Rockland-based educational organization that specializes in assisting children with special needs.
On Tuesday, Whitman Police interviewed the van driver, his adult passenger and the witness who took the video.
After reviewing the interviews and the video of the incident it was determined that the van did come to a full stop at the proper marked line prior to the tracks, as is required by law.
As the driver began to roll forward across the tracks, the gates had already begun to lower down.
“This is something that, while rare, does happen every once and a while,” Chief Benton said. “Most cars just drive right across the tracks, but the vehicles that are mandated by law to stop prior to the tracks can sometimes get caught in sort of a ‘no man’s land,’ where the lights start flashing and the gate comes down behind them before they can get across the tracks. Thankfully he was able to maneuver the van away from the tracks to avoid being struck.”
One of the gates came down on top of the van. The driver tried to back up, but the school bus sign on the van’s roof caught the gate, preventing it from reversing out of the way.
To avoid being struck by the train, the driver turned the van to its left, parallel with the tracks.
The identity of the driver is not being released.