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It’s happened again! Vehicle collides with train in Pleasant Prairie, 28-year-old driver hurt

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PLEASANT PRAIRIE (WITI) -- It has happened again! A vehicle collided with a train in Pleasant Prairie early Tuesday morning, July 8th. This is the second time in two weeks that this has happened at this railroad crossing in Pleasant Prairie. It's a crossing local officials have complained about for years.

The latest incident happened just after 4:30 a.m. when the vehicle, which was traveling southbound on 88th Ave., struck the train.

The train was stopped at the time while it unloaded at a nearby factory.

There was no damage or load spillage to the railroad car, which was hauling steel.

The man driving the vehicle, identified as 28-year-old Saul Ruiz-Rocha of Kenosha, suffered minor injuries -- and was treated and released from a hospital.

Ruiz-Rocha was issued four citations: Operating Without a License, Operating Without Insurance, Operating Without a Seatbelt, and Inattentive Driving.

Pleasant Prairie's Village Manager says officials first asked the state to consider installing lights and gates back in 1993.

The state denied that request then, and again in 2011.

But even before Tuesday's accident -- state officials say they were going back to review the crossing.

In the light of day, it's far more safe to clear the crossing on 88th Avenue -- but in the dark, Pleasant Prairie officials say it's a hazard.

"It just begs another look, I mean it`s, luckily no one`s been seriously injured. The first guy -- I was amazed he wasn`t seriously injured," Pleasant Prairie Village Administrator Michael Pollocoff said.

The first incident happened on June 26th.

A Kenosha man didn't see a train had stopped outside of EMCO Chemical -- just off the tracks.

The man hit the train, but escaped without any life-threatening injuries.

Following that crash, village officials spoke with the state's Commissioner of Railroads -- raising concerns about the lack of lights and crossing arms at the railroad crossing.

"Before we could even start the discussion rolling, here we are a week later and it happened again -- so it really took me. I was a little stunned," Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale said.

Village officials say this comes down to a safety issue.

"It`s a little bit of a higher-speed road and it`s dark and the nature of the equipment, the tanks and railcars, are dark," Pollocoff said.

The state pays to place lights and gates, and the Commissioner of Railroads says typically, it costs about $250,000 to install them at a single crossing.

"If I had my way, we`d put `em at every crossing because every single crossing is a potential accident waiting to happen -- but that`s just not practical," Plale said.

The Village of Pleasant Prairie is working with Kenosha County to install street lights near the crossing -- but they're still asking the state to lend them an arm.

State officials will hold a hearing later this summer to discuss a larger plan involving that stretch of 88th Avenue.

The DOT wants to install a bike patch along that route.

The Commissioner of Railroads says it's possible that final plan will also include new safety features at the crossing.


Meanwhile, we're hearing from the first individual to strike the train with his vehicle -- Juan Matias.

He has injuries to his head, arms and legs.

The crash left him with a lot of pain, and he, too is demanding change.

It was around midnight on June 26th.

"I remember hearing a smack. It was a very dark and foggy night," Matias said.

Matias says he was headed to work when he smacked into the train.

"I saw that there was a railroad crossing there. There was no lights going, so I proceeded through," Matias said.

What Matias couldn't see, still on the tracks, was a parked train car.

There were no lights or gates.

Matias drove his vehicle straight into it.

"I felt something hit my head and then I don't remember anything after that," Matias said.

Matias had to be cut from the car, and rushed to the hospital.

He now moves with the help of a walker. He has a gash on his head and a brace on his torso.

He says he's lucky to be alive.

"He realized the miracle that had just happened," Matias' translator told FOX6 News.

Matias is disheartened to learn of another incident at the same railroad crossing less than two weeks later.

"I don't understand why the authorities haven't done something to prevent this from reoccurring. If the authorities are waiting for someone to die, that's eventually going to happen," Matias said.

Matias is currently unable to work with his injuries. Matias has sought the assistance of an attorney in his case.

Monitor FOX6 News and for updates on this developing story.

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