The communities of Holly, Fenton, Linden are nearly cut in half by railroad tracks — which increases the odds of accidents involving trains.
In the tri-county area, there have been countless accidents involving pedestrians, vehicles and trains. The first known car-train fatalities occurred 100 years ago on June 22, 1919.
According to information provided by Silver Spray Sports co-owner Patti Smith, her great aunt, Edna May Dunlap Sumner was killed in a car-train accident on that date. Edna was only 26 years old.
Edna was married to Raymond Sumner and they had two children, Gerald and Maynard. On June 22, 1919, the family of four along with Edna’s sister, Smith’s grandmother Edith Dunlap Westfall (later Wiles) and her son Arnold, age 6, were traveling from their home near Fenton to Detroit for a family picnic.
As they crossed the railroad tracks at Main Street in downtown Fenton, they realized they’d taken a wrong turn and began an attempt to turn the car around. Edna was driving. No one knows what really happened, but none of them noticed the approaching passenger train.
The train struck the car, killing 4-year-old Gerald instantly and critically injuring Edna. The other victims suffered broken bones and bruising but recovered. Edna was carried to the home of Dr. A.J. Wright (across from where CRUST is now) where she died from her injuries.
The following are more recent examples.
1989 — North LeRoy Street
In December 1989, four young people were involved in a car-train accident at North LeRoy Street near Silver Lake Road. Three of them, in their early 20s, died.
1991 and 1992 — Hogan Road
In 1991, three Linden High School students were killed at the Hogan Road crossing in Fenton Township. They were among seven people who died at that crossing before stop signs and flashing lights were installed. Among those seven was a family of three in 1992.
1995 — Silver Lake Road
In June 1995, the owner of a restaurant called Blaney’s on the Water (now
Ponemah Lakeside Lodge), died when his vehicle was struck by a westbound train. The owner, Raymond Blaney, 58, had publicly expressed concern about the safety of that railroad crossing. A few months prior to his death, he paid out of pocket for the lighted signal and its installation at the crossing.
1996 — Ann Street
Ann Street in the city of Fenton was the scene of another fatality in March 1996. A female driver, her 15-year-old son and her 5-year-old niece were in the woman’s Chrysler LaBaron. As the woman was about to cross over the Ann Street tracks, her son shouted to her that a train was coming. She first hit her brakes, but when she realized she could not stop in time, she instead accelerated. Her 5-year-old niece died as a result of the car-train crash. The Ann Street crossing has since been closed.
2005 — Silver Lake Road
A Milford woman escaped with minor injuries after the vehicle she was driving collided with a train in early March of 2005. The 46-year-old women was attempting to cross the railroad tracks at Allen’s Landing off Silver Lake Road and was going to Tee-Bonz’s Tavern (now Ponemah Lakeside Lodge). When she realized the train was coming, she put the vehicle in reverse and tried to back off the railroad tracks. The train struck the right front wheel of her vehicle, which then spun and rolled down the embankment.
2009 — Fish Lake Road
An early morning truck-train collision in February 2009 cost the life of a 38-year-old Holly man. Officials said the driver was traveling northbound on Fish Lake Road in Holly Township. Officials said it appeared that the truck crashed through the lowered crossing arm on the south side of the tracks and the crossing lights were flashing.
2010 — Silver Lake Road
A Budweiser delivery truck driver couldn’t quite make it up and over the railroad tracks at Tee Bone’z restaurant (now Ponemah Lakeside Lodge), and was struck by a train. The driver survived the crash.
2012 — near Silver Lake Road and U.S. 23
In July of 2012, a 17-year-old Fenton girl was killed when she was struck by a CN Railroad train. The girl was reportedly walking westbound along the north rail when the eastbound train struck her.
2014 — private drive Argentine Township
A 31-year-old Gaines man and 67-year-old Argentine Township man were killed in February 2014 when the pickup truck they were traveling in was struck by a CN train in Argentine Township. The 67-year-old driver crossed over a private crossing on private property on Lahring Road when the truck was struck by a westbound train.
2016 — between Hogan and Lahring
A 41-year-old Louisiana man was struck and killed by a train on June 25, 2016. The man allegedly was walking along the tracks between Hogan and Lahring roads when he was struck by a train at 3:40 a.m.. The accident occurred in an undeveloped wooded area about halfway between Hogan and Lahring roads.
2016 — downtown Fenton, and U.S. 23 overpass between North and Silver Lake roads
Twice in November of 2016, fatal train accidents occurred in Fenton. One involved a 15-year-old girl who died after being struck by a train in November. Later at the railroad tracks beneath the U.S. 23 overpass between North and Silver Lake roads, a 63-year-old man was fatally struck by a train.
2017 — downtown Fenton
A Fenton couple’s disabled Saturn four-door car was struck by a train in downtown Fenton in December 2017. They were able to abandon the car just before impact.