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December 1, 2002

Girl, 7, dies day after Grimes rail accident

By CHRISTOPHER FERRELL
Eagle Staff Writer

The lone survivor of a vehicle-train collision near Plantersville died Sunday at a Houston hospital.

Seven-year-old Jennifer Perez died just after 10:30 a.m. at Memorial Hermann Hospital, where she had been airlifted Saturday afternoon after suffering an apparent skull fracture and broken neck when a train struck her grandfather’s pickup. Donald Badeau, 51, and his grandson, 8-year-old Joshua Perez, were both killed in the collision on County Road 202 in Grimes County.

Badeau was westbound on County Road 202 when he drove through the railroad crossing near the intersection of F.M. 1774. As he crossed the tracks, a northbound train crashed into the driver’s side of his 1997 GMC pickup.

The train was traveling between 45 and 50 miles per hour when it hit the truck.

Badeau was a member of the Plantersville Volunteer Fire Department and was poised to become chief next month, said Plantersville fire Chief T.C. Hirsch, who is retiring at the end of December.

Badeau had been a member of the department for 18 years and also served as a first responder in emergency situations along with his wife, Anita. Hirsch, who was among the first emergency personnel to arrive at the scene of Saturday’s accident, said Badeau had been elected by the department’s board of directors to replace him.

“We all got along with him real well,” Hirsch said. “He was a good fella.”

Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said the two children also were from the Plantersville area.

Badeau’s wife and some other family members were in Massachusetts on Saturday and returned to town Sunday, Sowell said. Funeral arrangements are pending.

The Union Pacific railroad crossing where the wreck occurred does not have flashing lights or an arm to prevent traffic from driving over the tracks when a train is approaching. Signs on each side of the tracks warn of a railroad crossing, which is a common setup throughout rural parts of the state, Sowell said.

“The railroad crossings are kind of like a state highway versus a county road,” Sowell said. “It depends on the volume of traffic as to who gets flashing lights and who gets a sign.”

Sowell said Badeau was familiar with the railroad tracks, so something may have distracted him as he drove through the crossing. But, he said, there is no way to know exactly what happened.

“The conductor said [Badeau] was looking away, so he may have not seen it coming,” Sowell said. “There are some trees there along the right side, but he lives out there and he knew it was there.”

Twenty-nine people in Texas were killed in accidents at railroad crossings between January and August of this year and 81 others were injured, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. During that time period there were 186 accidents at public railroad crossings.

• Christopher Ferrell’s e-mail address is cferrell@theeagle.com.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Bryan - College Station Eagle

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