Community shaken by mother’s death at Amtrak crossing

ATHERTON, Mo. -- A mother was killed and her young daughter and her boyfriend were hospitalized after their vehicle was struck by a train Friday night.

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The Jackson County Sheriff's Office says the woman was at the railroad crossing in Atherton, a town about 11 miles northeast of Independence.

Officers say she drove her Ford Ranger truck around the guardrails, which were down, and into the path of an Amtrak train. The train pushed the truck into the metal crossing post.

"The impact ejected the boyfriend and her daughter out of the car," said resident Jim Cocklin.

The driver, who neighbors identified as Jennifer Norris, died on the gravel by the tracks.

Jared Hill grew up in Atherton, and knows the victim's family.

"A child loses her mother, and a parent should never have to bury a child, at all," he said.  "It's a lot of loss."

Atherton is a town roughly 6 square blocks, with a population of less than 200. Yet at the railroad crossing near Atherton Road and Mabel, roughly 70 trains a day pass through Atherton.

Photo from GoFundMe

The town sits on a route that connects Chicago to Los Angeles. Many trains run close to 100 miles an hour on the route.

With such a small community, practically everyone knows each other.

"I looked out in front of the house and we saw the truck and we knew whose it was," Cocklin said.

Those who live in Atherton and near the tracks say the crossing must be safer.

"I think they need to do something with this -- slow these trains down," Cocklin said.

"I know I can't stop the trains," he continued, "because that's how the world runs. We need to keep the freight running, but we also need to do something safer."

Photo from GoFundMe

Added Cocklin, "It's just sad because the whole community is impacted now. And it's over stupid stuff."

A GoFundMePage has been set up to help the family with funeral and medical expenses.

The Southwest Chief was en route to Kansas City from Chicago. Amtrak released this statement to Fox 4:

Amtrak Train 3, the Southwest Chief, was delayed by about three hours after making contact with a vehicle on the tracks at a crossing between LaPlata and Kansas City, Mo. There were no injuries to the 102 Amtrak customers or to the train crew. There was cosmetic damage to the lead locomotive of the westbound train, which operates daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.

In this area, Train 3 uses tracks owned, maintained and dispatched by BNSF Railway Co.

These incidents are often tragic and are avoidable by drivers if they heed the warnings of the approaching train and wait a minute or so for it to pass.

For more information, visit Operation Lifesaver, the railroad industry-supported safety campaign at