Hometown Hero Works to Save Lives

By Melanie Chapman | mchapman@kolr10.com

Published 10/09 2013 08:14PM

Updated 10/23 2013 08:53PM

MISSOURI – The biggest fear for many who guide locomotives along the tracks is hitting someone. J.D. “Buzz” Stone spent 36 years working the railroad and he knows that devastating feeling.

“I was the engineer on a train,” says Stone. “And it hit a young man. It was fatal.”

That was more than 20 years ago and it was the turning point in his life.  He was determined to prevent more of these tragic accidents.

“I got to thinking, what can be done?” say Stone. “I heard about the Operation Lifesaver Program and became interested in it.”

Operation Lifesaver is a nationwide, non-profit pubic information program aimed at reducing collisions, injuries and fatalities at rail crossings and on railways.

Stone felt it was important to get local law enforcement involved. He, along with Burlington Northern Santa Fe, worked closely with state troopers, deputies and officers to enforce the traffic laws.

“At that time many years ago, it wasn’t something that was all that common,” says Stone. “The laws that were out there have been strengthened; the law enforcement personnel are more familiar with railroad operations.”

For years, Stone worked with troopers on the train so they too see drivers trying to outrun trains.

“We let them see what we deal with every day,” says Stone. “It was a big turning point. It really got them interested once they saw our plight and the ways it could be strengthened to avoid these incidents.”

For his decades of service in safety, and bringing awareness to the dangers of the railroad, Stone received a rare award as an honorary trooper.

“With this program and Buzz’s help, we know that we’ve reduced those incidents and saved lives,” says Col. Ron Replogle of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “That’s exactly the name Operation Livesaver, and that’s the goal of the program to save lives at these railroad crossings.”

For Stone, it was a lifetime accomplishment.

“I really want to thank them for honoring me,” he says.  “It was a goal of mine and I thought if I kept working at it and working at it, it might come true.  Sure enough it did.”


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