UPDATE: Railroad crossing upgrades approved before Athens woman - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Railroad crossing upgrades approved before Athens woman killed in crash

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ATHENS, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The City of Athens signed a contract with Norfolk Southern and TDOT in July to bring safety improvements to the railroad intersection where an Athens woman was killed on Sunday.

Friends and family of Alana King, 21, said those improvements could have saved her life.

"It's just like heartbreaking," said family friend Charissa Ryan, "Because she died way too young and it's just really sad."

Candles were still burning at the crash site where Alana was killed on Sunday.

A train struck and killed the young mom when she was driving over the railroad intersection.

"Witnesses said that she was the second car following another vehicle that had crossed the tracks in front of the train, and that she didn't slow down and drove into the path of the train," said Capt. Rob Davis.

Neighbors, friends and family of Alana said they've been fighting for a safer intersection and railroad gates for years.
    
There was another collision at the same intersection two years ago.

"If they did something about it then my friend Jade would not be dead right now," said neighbor Jerry Simpson.

"This accident could have been easily prevented if they had that, somebody's life could have been saved because of it," Ryan said.

Three months before Alana was killed the city of Athens signed a contract with TDOT and Norfolk Southern to upgrade the safety measures at that very intersection.
    
The upgrades include additional signage and crossing gates.

"That is in the plan, to upgrade that crossing with a guarded type that has the arms that actually drop when a train is coming," Capt. Davis said.

But the contract does not include a deadline on when the improvements will made.
    
The community hopes Alana's death will speed up the process.

"Make sure it don't happen to nobody else again," Simpson said.

While police issue a reminder for drivers to stay alert.

"It's up to drivers to maintain awareness and caution when crossing a railroad track," Capt. Davis said.

Norfolk Southern said they are waiting for TDOT's approval to begin construction on the safety improvements. Once they received that approval it will take about six months before the crossing gate will be installed.

This crash is still being investigated.


ORIGINAL STORY: Family and friends are pleading for change after a McMinn County mother was hit and killed by a train on Sunday.

The fiance of the woman identified her as Alana Jade King.

Investigators said she was driving over the train tracks when the crash happened near the intersection of Cook Drive and Howard Street in Athens.

"If she would have seen the rails come down, it wouldn't have happened at all," King's fiance, Ahsante Smith said.

Smith said the issue is that there aren't any railroad crossing arms at that location.

"I want them to get some rails right there so it doesn't happen again. They should have some rails right there. Period," Smith said.

Norfolk Southern crews were out testing the signals after the crash. 

Just a few feet away, the area where King's car landed afterward has become a place of remembrance. It was emotional for dozens who were close to her.

"I guess in shock. I don't feel like I'm here right now. Just kind of weird," Beth Burnette, a friend said.

The circumstances behind the crash are still unclear.

Friends and family are now turning their attention to making a change at this railroad crossing so no one else has to experience grief and pain.

"I want them to know she was a good girl, a good hearted girl. She loved everybody around here. Everybody loved her," Smith said.

Channel 3 contacted the train company, Norfolk Southern, for comment about the crash. So far, they have not issued a statement.

We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

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