Dunkirk, NY Auto And Train Crash, Nov 1987



Dunkirk (AP) - Six western New York teen-agers returning from a Halloween party died early yesterday morning when a freight train slammed into their car as its driver apparently tried to beat the train past a crossing, authorities said.
The car carrying the teen-agers, all from the Chautauqua County community of Dunkirk 40 miles south of Buffalo, was pushed 1,700 feet down the tracks from the crossing, police said. The teen-agers inside all died at the scene.
They were identified as driver RANDY HAASE, ROBERT RADLOFF, MELISSA ZIEGLER, JODY WDOWIASZ, PAULA KUSHEL and JENNIFER STYBORSKI - all seniors at Dunkirk High School. Only 18-year-old HAASE'S age was available yesterday.
The accident set off a wave of shock and grief in the local community, according to Kyle Kubers, an employee at radio station WDOE in Dunkirk.
"I've been getting calls all morning since 6 o'clock or so, and it's really hard to believe," he said. "It's really hit a lot of people .... I'm getting more calls than I can handle."
"They say a lot of people were there (at the party) last night and the people that knew the kids took it pretty bad," said Francis Katte, a Dunkirk firefighter. "The full impact hasn't hit because it's a Sunday, and people don't know very much about it yet."
The six teen-agers, all in costumes, had left a Halloween party and may have been bound for more festivities when the crash took place, according to Dunkirk patrolman James Brill, who was at the scene. He said they may also have been dropping off STYBORSKI, who lived two blocks from the crossing.
The crossing gate was operating when the Norfolk and Western train, traveling about 40 mph, crashed into the teen-agers' car at 3:22 a.m., according to Dunkirk police officer Thomas Zagas. He said a witness told police the car apparently was trying to beat the train past the crossing.
A coroner will try to determine if alcohol was involved, Brill said.
The car was hit broadside and pushed straight down the tracks, Katte said.
A coupler and snow plow in front of the engine speared the car and held it suspended above the tracks. "If it would have thrown them to the side, we would have had survivors," Brill said.
It would have been impossible for the 89-car train to stop, according to Brill.
The train had left Buffalo at 2:10 a.m., bound for Conneaut, Ohio.
Dunkirk Mayor Edwin Gregorski said yesterday he had tried to do away with the crossing and nine similar ones within city limits. "When I first took office six years ago, I wanted to eliminate that line, but it fell on deaf ears," he said.

Democrat and Chronicle Rochester New York 1987-11-02