Ridin’ the rails still not a good idea

Andrew Jay Smith
Andrew Jay Smith

A 32-year-old Coeur d’Alene man is facing multiple charges after taking a drive through a railroad crossing arm at the Arizona Street railroad crossing and then headed west … on the BNSF railroad tracks. His truck didn’t get that far, but the driver, Andrew Jay Smith, made it all the way to the Boundary County Jail, where he’s being held on $40,000 bond.

According to court records, Boundary County Sheriff’s dispatch received a call at about 9:31 p.m. Saturday, December 9, of an intoxicated guest at the Kootenai River Inn who’d earlier been cut off and had just driven off and was now parked at the railroad crossing.

Bonners Ferry Police Officer Brandon Johnson responded to the call, and found the 2015 Chevy Silverado stopped and waiting for a train, but not in the manner prescribed in the state driver’s manual. Instead Smith, sole occupant of the vehicle, had drive through the crossing arm, breaking it, and onto the near set of tracks as the train convincingly occupied the far set. Once the train safely passed, the Silverado took off … west, straddling the railroad tracks, rather than south on the street as preferred in such settings.

Johnson turned on his lights and siren and headed off down the siding road in pursuit, pulling as close to the wayward rig as he could to get the driver’s attention. When he did, the driver hit the gas, jouncing and bouncing down the tracks at a breakneck 40 or so miles an hour until the Chevy, both front tires shredded, got high centered on the rails.

As Johnson approached so as to deliver the line, “Good evening, sir. Do you know why I pulled you over?” Smith was still driving away. And then Johnson, to Smith’s astonishment, opened the driver’s door and helped Johnson safely step out of the truck.

Despite previously displayed cognitive deficiencies, Smith did have the awareness to divest himself of contraband, reaching into his pocket and tossing something into some snow about ten feet away … as Johnson watched, and asked what he’d thrown.

“Just a weed pen,” Smith replied.

He was booked for felony eluding, felony injury to railroad property, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, concealment of evidence for allegedly tossing said paraphernalia and a DUI which, if he’s convicted, will rise to a felony offense as he has two prior DUI convictions.

He’s scheduled to be arraigned before Judge Lamont Berecz at 9 a.m. Wednesday, January 3.