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Train strikes car, kills woman, unborn child

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 6, 1998

RESERVE – A 31-year-old pregnant woman died Monday afternoon after her car was struck by a Kansas City Southern train at Homewood Place.

Emily Bernard’s full-term baby boy, due to be born Thursday, also died as a result of the accident, despite an emergency Caesarian section done in an attempt to rescue the fetus.

Bernard, 31, of 423 Northwest Third Street, was southbound on Homewood, approaching the railroad tracks at 11:35 a.m.The crossing has a sign, but no crossbars, lights or bells.

She was struck by the train as she began to cross the tracks, and her 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass sailed, spun, flipped onto its back and skidded into the bottom of an 8-foot ditch on the north side of the tracks between Homewood and East 12th Street Extension.

Tameka Hampton, of 380 Homewood, alleges the train’s engineer only began blowing the horn after the impact.

“He was going too fast,” she also claimed.

But Lt. Michael Tregre of the St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Office saidpolice have a witness who declared the horn sounded prior to the accident and, according to the train’s engineer, the 71-car train was traveling 35 to 39 mph in a 49-mph zone.

Other neighbors to the accident scene asserted cars regularly speed along Homewood, a possible contributing factor.

Bernard was pulled from her car after 45 minutes of struggle while neighbors and family members gathered to watch the rescue efforts.

According to her brother, Frank Gardner of Reserve, Bernard was nine months pregnant, with only three days to go before delivery.

The baby died shortly after reaching the hospital. Bernard died at 3:19p.m., according to Lisa Fuglaar of River Parishes Hospital.This marked the first auto-train accident in Reserve in 1998. In 1996,four accidents in Reserve claimed five lives. Only one such accident inSeptember 1997 led authorities to believe the message had reached the public.

“We tried to do something with educating the people, at least to pay attention at rail crossings,” St. John Civil Service Director BertramMadere commented at the accident scene. “But if you just put a crossbarsign, people take it for granted.”

Photo: EMILY BERNARD of Reserve and her unborn son died following this train- auto accident on Homewood Place at the Kansas City Southern crossing, despite efforts to educate the public to be cautious while crossing railroad tracks.

Photo by Leonard Gray.

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