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Revisiting Mendon: What’s been done since June 2022 train derailment

Posted: 2:00 PM, Jun 06, 2023
Updated: 2023-06-07 17:13:00-04
Mike Spencer at Mendon, Missouri, train derailment site

MENDON, Mo. — This month marks one year since an Amtrak passenger train derailed after hitting a dump truck in Mendon, Missouri.

The crash killed four people, including the driver of the truck, and injured dozens of others.

Since June 27, 2022, there have not been safety improvements installed — such as lights and gates — at the crossing on Porche Prairie Avenue.

KSHB 41 investigator Cameron Taylor revisited the site of the crash and followed up with a farmer who brought up concerns about the crossing prior to the deadly derailment.


Mike Spencer still thinks about the incident nearly one year later.

“It was so surreal to see that and walk up on it and know that this was going to make an imprint on our community for many years to come,” said Spencer, a farmer who lives in Chariton County.

He remembers the phone call he received from a friend telling him a train had derailed. At the time, Spencer was in Columbia, Missouri.

The I-Team asked Spencer what's been done since the June 2022 accident.

“Well, not a lot. Not a lot,” Spencer said.

Around 58 trains per day pass through the crossing at Porche Prairie Avenue. Most are freight, but two are passenger trains, according to U.S. Department of Transportation records.

The max speed allowed is 90 mph, and the crossing is less than a football field away from Spencer’s soybean crop.


Spencer first raised concerns about the crossing in December 2019 before the county commission. He listed several issues including the steepness of the approach, the lack of lights and gates, and the brush.

“I was the one that tried to prevent the accident. I’m not the one bringing a lawsuit against the railroad," he said. "I’m the one who tried to prevent the lawsuit from happening. Knew it was going to happen — if somebody was hit there, that it was going to happen. And it did."

Spencer also alerted the Missouri Department of Transportation and the owner of the track, BNSF. But talks about safety before the crash never materialized into improvements.

“It’s disappointing that something had to happen that tragic to get the attention it needed,” Spencer said.


This April, the county commission held a meeting to discuss safety improvements at railroad crossings. Pictures from the meeting show Porche Prairie Avenue as a proposed closed crossing.

“I would hate to see it closed. I don’t think it’s a good idea to close this crossing," Spencer said. "I don’t think that’s the answer to it."

Spare train tracks stacked on top of each other now block the crossing, but reminders of the derailment remain, such as a door from the Amtrak train.

Spencer said vehicles like his truck haven’t been able to get through since before the derailment, which has created another set of issues.

“Our other field is about 200 feet away and we can’t get there now, so to go around to get to the other side, it’s around 6 1/2 miles one way,” Spencer said.

He also worries in the case there was a medical emergency, first responders would be forced to drive around.

Spencer hopes the crossing will eventually reopen. After all, it had been on a statewide improvement list.


The crossing is still included on a statewide improvement list as a project “ready for funding,” which would cost around $400,000 — funds would be put toward installing lights and gates along with making roadway improvements.

But Spencer is not confident about a path toward progress.

“I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for this crossing to get repaired,” Spencer said.

The I-Team checked in with MoDOT about the crossing. MoDOT shared the obligation to agree on a plan is left up to the railroad company, BNSF, and Chariton County.

Once that happens, the agency works with the two to finalize the plan, including how it will be paid for.

MoDOT would not agree to a possible interview until after the budget was signed by Gov. Mike Parson.

If it’s ultimately decided the crossing will remain closed, those improvements would never happen.

The I-Team reached out for additional information from Chariton County’s presiding commissioner, Dr. Evan Emmerich, but he never responded to multiple requests for comment.

As for BNSF, the organization also did not respond about the future of the crossing.