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New details of fatal train crash emerge

Train Wreck follow pic.jpg

All that remained Tuesday of a vehicle-train collision Sunday in Whitakers was the door of the SUV driven by Eugene and Dorothy Lyons, who died at the scene.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The train wreck that killed a Whitakers couple has left the community in mourning, the sister of one of the victims told the Telegram.

Clairbel Thomas, the sister of Dorothy Lyons, said the couple were well-liked in the community because of their service to their fellow man.

“They were devoted to the Lord,” Thomas said. “They were always helping people, and everybody that knew them loved them.”

Thomas contacted the Telegram to clarify that the Rev. Eugene Lyons, not Dorothy, was the driver of the car that was destroyed in the collision with an Amtrak train about 2:30 p.m. Sunday near the intersection of Nash and Railroad streets in Whitakers. Local authorities at first reported that Dorothy Lyons, 65, was the driver of the car.

“Dorothy could not have been driving the car,” Thomas said. “She has not driven in three years since she became legally blind. She used to be a hairdresser and worked from her home, but she had to give that up about four years ago because of her sight.”

The Rev. Eugene Lyons, 64, worked at QVC and served as the pastor of Messiah Baptist Church in Whitakers, a ministry that he began about 10 years ago, Thomas said. Thomas said the church was located near the site where the crash that killed the couple occurred.

“It is my understanding that they had just left the church but had gone back to get something they forgot when they were killed,” Thomas said.

Thomas has trouble believing that Lyons drove around the safety crossing arm into the path of the train, as was reported.

“They were both very cautious people,” Thomas said. “They would never even drive anywhere without their safety belt on. I think the arms must have caught them after they crossed and then the train just came too fast.”

However, Chief Darrell Cofield of the Whitakers Police Department said several witnesses reported that Lyons drove around the safety arm for reasons that will likely never be known. Cofield also confirmed that Eugene Lyons was the driver of the vehicle at the time the tragedy occurred.

Funeral services for the couple will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Red Hill Baptist Church in Whitakers, Thomas said. Visitation will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday at Sunset Memorial Funeral Home in Rocky Mount.

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