Cell phone blamed in another N. Carolina rail crossing death

Erin Brett Lindsay-Calkins was talking on her mobile phone when she crashed through a rail crossing gate into the path of a train that struck her car, killing her and her 5-year-old son, the North Carolina Highway Patrol reported Wednesday.

Michael Lindsay-Calkins was searching for his wife's phone at dusk Wednesday near the Dec. 22 crash site on Mount Willing Road in Efland.

"Nobody has come forward to say she was talking to them, so I don't know if she was on the cell phone," said Lindsay-Calkins, 24, of Efland. "I checked her car and didn't find the cell phone, and right now I'm looking for it at the site."

Experts say that drivers are dangerously distracted when they talk or send text messages on a cell phone. One study compared phone use to alcohol impairment and found that talking on the phone makes drivers eight times more likely to crash.

Witnesses said Erin Lindsay-Calkins, 26, was using her phone when she approached the rail crossing from the north, the Highway Patrol reported.

Sgt. Jeff Gordon, a Highway Patrol spokesman, said the warning lights and bells performed correctly, alerting drivers to the approaching train, and the crossing gate also functioned properly.

Lindsay-Calkins drove her Toyota Scion under the crossing gate arm as it descended, breaking the gate. Then her car stopped on the tracks, the Highway Patrol reported.

The eastbound Amtrak Carolinian had slowed from 62 to 55 mph before it struck the car. The impact killed Lindsay-Calkins and her son, Nicholas, who was thrown from the car.

Bystanders pulled the driver's 4-month-old daughter, Aven, out of a car seat that was wrapped in the twisted metal of the car.

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