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Farmer dies after tractor hit by train
A Cape Girardeau County farmer was killed Thursday afternoon after a tractor he was driving across rural railroad tracks was struck by an 87-car freight train.
Earl Nabe, 82, was taken to Southeast Missouri Hospital by helicopter, where he was pronounced dead at about 2:45 p.m., a little over an hour after the accident.
Officials at the scene said Nabe, who lived at 1700 County Road 651, was conscious, but could not speak when they arrived at the accident, which took place about three miles north of Cape Girardeau.
Emergency personnel estimated that the southbound train, owned by Burlington-Northern Sante Fe Railway, was traveling about 40 mph and Nabe was thrown from his tractor on impact. The maximum speed allowed in that area for trains is 45 mph.
The impact caused the tractor to roll into a muddied area. Workers spent 15 minutes knee-deep in mud as they put Nabe on a backboard and gave him oxygen and intravenous fluids.
Nabe was attempting to cross the tracks in an easterly direction where they connect with County Road 653, which is just off County Highway 177.
The man's son-in-law, Clyde Wadlow, heard about the accident on his police scanner and hurried to the scene. He said that Nabe farmed soybeans on about 500 acres near the accident, which happened in an area near 1,000 acres of river bottom land that locals call the Flora Bottoms.
The accident knocked down a telephone line and caused two of the tractor's tires to come off and roll several yards away.
Workers with Burlington-Northern Sante Fe Railway were on the scene taking pictures and inspecting the track.
Burlington spokesman Steve Forsberg said the train was a mixed-freight, 87-car train, which was carrying no hazardous material. There were 48 loaded cars and 39 were empty, he said.
"We are saddened by any death, which is why the railroad industry has worked so hard to educate drivers," Forsberg said. "That's why we conduct thousands and thousands of safety presentations across the nation in an effort to intensify driver awareness."
In 2000, Missouri saw 17 railroad-related fatalities, according to government statistics.
Nabe's nephew, Ivan Heise, owns the farm where the accident happened. He said the crossing, which is only marked with a yellow railroad warning sign, is dangerous.
"I've been trying to get them to change that crossing for a year now," he said. "It crosses at an awkward angle. Everybody who farms out there has almost died at some point. With a loaded truck, you can't see a train."
He said he has been working with the Special Road District and the railroad.Heise suggests re-engineering the roadway so that the crossing is not at an angle that prohibits a clear view of oncoming trains.
Forsberg said the railroad industry does not determine what level of warning goes in at crossings. That's up to the states.
"The warning signs are in place for the benefit of the driver's, not the benefits of the trains," he said. "The trains can't stop like vehicles can. They can't steer out of the way."
On most lightly traveled rural roads, the standard railroad crossing sign is all that's warranted, he said.
The Missouri Highway Patrol said Nabe failed to yield to the locomotive. The engineer was Michael Moyer, 54, of Chaffee, Mo.
Heise said that Nabe had grown up in the Cape Girardeau area and had been in farming all of his life, except for a time spent as a worker in the Colorado coal mines.
He was survived by a daughter and two grandchildren.
335-6611, extension 137