Ira A. Navarre, 51, veteran member of Ann Arbor's Fire Department, was killed late yesterday afternoon when his car was hit by a southbound passenger train at the Wright St. crossing of the Ann Arbor Railroad.
The locomotive of the train, traveling westerly at that point at an estimated 40 miles an hour, pushed the automobile 500 feet along the tracks, where it toppled over a steep 60-foot embankment and plunged into deep waters of the Huron River.
Navarre, still inside the submerged machine, was extricated by William A. Raeburn, 34, with the assistance of J. F. Ryan, another fireman who lives near the scene.
Near Victim's Home
Raeburn, a neighbor of the Navarres, was at home at the time of the tragedy, which occurred only a short distance from the Navarre residence at 415 Longshore Dr.
He and Ryan, who lives next door to the Navarres, noticed that the train had stopped and saw a trailer that had been attached to the victim's car still standing alongside the approach to the crossing.
Alarmed, they ran to the riverbank - Ryan stopping to pick up a rope which he tied to Raeburn to hold him against the swift undercurrent of the stream during the rescue attempt.
Witnesses said Raeburn dived four times before he was able to locate Navarre and get him ashore.
Attempts to resuscitate the victim pending arrival of an ambulance failed, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital. Although he had been under water for an estimated 10 minutes, hospital attendants said cerebral injuries and multiple fractures were the probable cause of death.
Train 45 Minutes Late
Police said Navarre was driving north on his way home at the time of the tragedy, which occurred about 4:45. They said a warning bell, not equipped with a wigwag or red light, presumably was operating.
However, the passenger train, coming into Ann Arbor, was nearly an hour late after having hit another automobile at Cahocta, north of Howell, earlier in the afternoon. Though no one was hurt in the previous crash, it occasioned considerable delay, according to Edward Buckley, of Toledo, the conductor.
It was conjectured that Navarre assumed that the train - due around 4 o'clock - had already passed the crossing.
Navarre's death resulted from the second train-car crash to have occurred at the Wright St. crossing this year. On Jan. 8 Arthur Grundy, 25, escaped injury when his stalled truck was knocked off the tracks by the same train - the "Four O'Clock" - also at that time under the conductorship of Buckley.
The death was the first traffic fatality in Ann Arbor this year, but the 12th reported in the county during the same period. It was the fifth fatal traffic accident in Washtenaw during June, and the second in 1948 to result from a train-car crash.
Fireman 24 Years
Navarre, who had been with the Ann Arbor Fire department for 24 yeras, was an active civic worker who had concentrated his interests particularly in the Washtenaw-Livingston County Boy Scout Council, of which he was a member.
He also was active in the American Legion, which he joined after serving in the U. S. Signal Corps during World War I, and in the Izaak Walton League.
Immediate survivors of the tragedy victim are his wife, Majel, and four sons, Neilan and Nelson, twins; and Norbert and Dayle - all of Ann Arbor.
World War I
Washtenaw-Livingston County Boy Scout Council
U. S. Army Signal Corps
St. Joseph Mercy Hospital
Izaak Walton League
Ann Arbor Railroad
Ann Arbor Fire Department
Accidents - Trains
Accidents - Automobile
Ann Arbor News
William A. Raeburn
Norbert H. Navarre
Nelson W. Navarre
Majel Whitlock Navarre
J. F. Ryan
Ira A. Navarre
415 Longshore Dr