Alvin woman killed by train at crossing without safety gate

There is a stop sign at the crossing, but no safety gate nor lights. (Adela Uchida)
July 25, 2011 3:26:58 PM PDT
An Alvin woman who devoted her life to helping families with disabled children was hit and killed by a train. Some say the railroad crossing where it occurred was an accident just waiting to happen. The driver apparently didn't see it coming and there was little to alert her that a train was on its way. The accident happened Saturday on County Road 190 in Brazoria County.

Betty Ketchum died on Saturday, leaving behind a legacy of work helping people with intellectual disabilities and questions about the safety of the railroad crossing.

Froberg's Farm, known for fresh fruit and vegetables, is popular among folks who live in Alvin. That's exactly what Ketchum was here to get on Saturday morning, when her car was hit by a train in the short driveway cars take to get from County Road 190 to the parking lot.

"A car came over the track and a train just snuck up on it and it hit the car," said farmer Albert Froberg, Jr.

Ketchum was well known in Alvin. As the executive director of the ARC of the Gulf Coast, she helped tens of thousands of people with intellectual disabilities in her 30 years there. Today, the office was closed and the staff and board is trying to figure out what's next.

"She was the lifeblood of the organization," said board member John Schneider. "We're working now to do what we can do to keep the organization going forward."

At Froberg's Farm, the owners have tried to make the crossing safer.

"We put the sign that says watch for train and then we put a speed bump here," Froberg told Eyewitness News.

But there is no gate and no lights. We caught people ignoring the stop signs over and over, even while we were shooting an interview.

We talked to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad on the phone. A spokesman says the railroad has tried to close the crossing a number of times, but that the Frobergs have said no. The Frobergs say they can't afford it.

"We're just trying to run a family business here," Froberg said.

The railroad spokesman said BNSF would pay to close the crossing, but when we talked to a Brazoria County engineer, he said the county can only work on the public property that is along the road.

As far as a new road and a new parking lot, the Frobergs would be left to foot that bill, and that's something they say they simply cannot do.
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A memorial for Betty Ketchum is scheduled for Thursday at 3pm at the First United Methodist Church in Alvin.


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