Train-car wreck blamed on officer: Lawyer says injured man was held back on tracks

GOOSE CREEK — The driver of a car that was struck by an oncoming train while waiting on a funeral procession to pass blames the wreck on the officer who stopped traffic, his attorney said Monday.

Goose Creek police charged Alphaeus Whitfield of Moncks Corner with obstructing a railroad crossing after the train clipped the back of his car, causing it to strike three vehicles that were stopped in front of it at noon Friday, Lt. Karen Nix said.

Whitfield was one of two people who suffered what police called minor injuries. His attorney, Shawn O'Connor, said his client maintains that the wreck was not his fault.

'His position is he absolutely didn't violate any traffic laws,' O'Connor said.

Nix said a Goose Creek police officer stopped at the intersection of U.S. Highway 52 and Red Bank Road and raised her hand, signaling to the cars stopped at a red light on Red Bank Road to remain stopped so that the procession heading north on U.S. Highway 52 could continue unimpeded.

Three cars that were already across the railroad tracks on Red Bank Road did not move when the light turned green. Nix said the officer followed proper procedure but could not see Whitfield's car. He evidently couldn't see her either and pulled forward onto the tracks when the light turned green, she said.

Nix said the officer did not know Whitfield's car was on the tracks. She heard the train whistle but because they're so common in the area, wasn't aware that the train was about to cross Red Bank Road.

'She didn't see it until impact,' Nix said.

Nix said they are waiting to view camera footage from the train to see if a fifth vehicle behind the car pulled up, preventing Whitfield from backing up off the tracks when the train sounded its whistle.

Whitfield deferred questions to O'Connor, who declined to speak in detail for now but said the wreck was caused by the 'actions or inactions' of the officer.

Nix said state law clearly prohibits vehicles from stopping on tracks.

'It's illegal to stop on a railroad track, and he stopped on a railroad track,' she said.

An incident report wasn't available Monday.

Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589.