Family speaks out against Rocklin Quiet Zone
A family ripped apart by a fatal car versus train accident is speaking out against Rocklin’s Quiet Zone, seeking to keep train horns from being silenced at downtown rail crossings.
“My brother and I were both in the car that was hit by the train,” Mark Bagby said.
Bagby was just 6 when he was thrown from the car driven by his 17-year-old sister, Patty, after a train slammed into it July 30, 1967, at Webb Street and Taylor Road in Loomis. He woke up in the hospital with no memory of the collision. It changed his sister Sharon’s life forever and she wasn’t in the car.
“To this day it haunts me,” Sharon Bagby-Mittry said. “I lost my childhood. I keep thinking, ‘What could I have done different?’”
She was 14 years old, waiting for her siblings to return to pick her up with snacks from the store so they all could go to the drive-in movies together. Instead, Sharon lost her older sister Patty, a Del Oro High School junior, and 11-year-old sister Barbara.
“Patty took care of us. She was quiet and a sweetheart. Everybody liked her,” Mittry remembered. “Barbara was so smart. She would get her school projects done three weeks early.”
Mark was in the back seat with brother William Bagby Jr., just 7 years old at the time, who survived his injuries.
“He remembers everything to this day,” Mittry said. “He won’t talk about it.”
Their late parents never talked about it either, as it ripped apart their family.
“They didn’t handle it well at all,” Mittry said. “They just decided they weren’t going to be parents anymore. I ended up being the mom to my brothers. My dad one day came to me and started screaming at me, why didn’t I die instead of my sister?”
Mittry, the admitted “wild child” who had depended on her older sister, now had to fill her shoes.
“I would dream my sisters were trapped in this haunted house and if I could get them out and find a way to get them out, then they could come home,” Mittry said. “I would always wake right before I could get them out the door.”
Mittry, who today lives in Riverside County, just miles from her surviving brothers, is appalled the Rocklin City Council would even consider going along with a federal program to silence arbitrary train horns at downtown crossings. To enter the federal program, the council is expected to vote Tuesday to award a construction contract to create medians at the crossings at Farron Street, Rocklin Road, Midas Avenue, Americana Way and Dominguez Road for increased safety.
“People have to realize that there are more important things in life than being inconvenienced by the sound of a horn on a train,” Mittry said.
Mayor Diana Ruslin hailed the program last week as “noise relief” from the 26 daily freight trains that pass through downtown.
The program allows horns to be used in certain instances, such as warning pedestrians or in emergency situations. The gate arm and bells will continue to operate normally as a train approaches.
One of the train conductors on that fateful day, Kenneth Rogers, now retired and a Rocklin resident, has made it his mission to change the council’s mind after witnessing the Bagby tragedy. Mark Bagby heard about it and wanted to show support for Rogers.
“If I could do something to help other people survive, I’ll speak out,” Bagby said. “I can see disaster happening.”
Bagby thinks the horns should not be hindered in any way and supports Rogers’ call for increased safety measures. Rogers proposed not only constructing median dividers on the roadway, but also wants quad gates, side track horns, pedestrian gates and Americans with Disabilities Act foot mats to warn blind people.
Rogers said the train horn sounded in the accident but could have been hindered due to the fact that the car’s windows were up and the air conditioner and radio were on. Bagby, Mittry and Rogers independently agree that the train may have been obstructed from the driver’s view by overgrowth near the tracks. The driver also did not stop at the crossing before proceeding, which was required by law at the time.
Mittry’s message to the council is train horns save lives.
“I hope they change their mind. If it saves somebody, it’s worth it,” Mittry said. “They have to think, what if it was your child? What if your child never got to have a boyfriend, grow up or get married? My sisters never did.”