While the investigation into the cause of Sunday's train accident that claimed the life of a 21-year-old Danbury man continues, people in West Redding are beginning to talk about what they say is a tragic reminder that a gate is needed at the railroad crossing.
On Monday afternoon, a steady stream of residents pulled into the Post Office building which faces the intersection where a Metro-North train struck a Subaru at about 1:20 p.m. a day earlier. It's the center of West Redding, at the intersection of Simpaug Turnpike and Long Ridge Road, with a small business district in this normally quiet neighborhood.
On Sunday, sirens broke the serenity as emergency crews responded to the crash, which killed Wayne Balacky, a passenger, and left the driver and two other passengers in the hospital with critical injuries. Train service on the Danbury line was suspended till about 8 p.m. that night while investigators remained on scene. Bus service from Norwalk was set up in its place, and at least one resident and his wife were forced to take it back home on Sunday evening.
Redding resident George Venning was in his living room at the time of the crash and when he heard the prolonged sound of an engine he said he knew something wasn't right. Venning's house is about 200 feet from the railroad crossing and he has lived there all 82 years of his life.
He looked out his window, saw the sirens, and walked outside to find out what was going on.
"It's a sad thing," Venning said.
MTA Police, the lead investigators on the case, said the flashing lights at the intersection were functioning properly at the time of the crash. But there is no gate that drops down when a train passes.
"It definitely should have been put there a long time ago," Venning said.
According to Mike Vasale, a Danbury resident who works at Lombardi Pizza in West Redding center, the intersection had gates at one time, but they were apparently removed after repeatedly malfunctioning — they would go up and down randomly and police often had to come out and manually lift them, Vasale said. MTA Police weren't immediately available to confirm this.
Vasale, 27, has been working at Lombardi's for about 12 years and he said the accident is at least the second one he's seen at the crossing during that time.
"It's a sad thing that happened," he said.