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TRAIN DEATH STUNS MOORPARK LOWELL WITHINGTON, 76, WAS KNOWN AND ADMIRED FOR HELPING NEIGHBORS.

Byline: ERIC LEACH Staff Writer

MOORPARK -- Lowell Withington must have driven over the railroad tracks on the private road near his home more times than he could count.

Knowing the dangers, he even warned his wife recently to take extra caution there.

So news of his death this week after his pickup truck was struck by a train came as a shock to everyone who knew him. ``I would guess he crossed those tracks 1,000 times at minimum,'' said Dale Whitaker, owner of the Whitaker Hardware store in Moorpark. ``It's very sad. We feel very bad about this.''

Withington, 76 -- known around town as a hardworking man who was always there to lend a helping hand -- was killed Monday when an Amtrak train hit his pickup truck at the rural crossing leading into the hills where he owned a home and also leased property on a nearby ranch.

He was headed west about 3:50 p.m. on Poindexter Avenue, which runs along the tracks, when he turned north onto a private driveway leading to a gate and a dirt road into the hills.

The eastbound train hit the driver's side of his truck, knocking it several hundred feet into a drainage ditch, police said.

A drilling contractor who drilled many of Ventura County's wells, Withington was known as a quiet, hardworking man who had lived in Moorpark since childhood.

``He was an absolutely neat guy, the hardest working man you would ever want to meet,'' Whitaker said. ``He was one of those people who would never retire. It's a tremendous loss. There is no one with a higher moral character. He was absolutely honest, an upfront guy.''

Family members said Withington crossed the tracks every day for decades and had recently warned his wife, Willa, about the need to be extremely careful there.

They wondered whether he might not have heard the train coming because of a hearing problem, or might not have seen it until too late because of a tree or nearby curve in the tracks.

His son-in-law, Jim Webber, said Withington loved Moorpark and the people in it and wanted to help his neighbors any way he could, clearing the brush with his bulldozer and even fighting a recent brush fire with a hose.

``He's done a lot for this town and the people in it. We're very upset about this,'' Webber said, expressing concern about the danger posed by the railroad crossing -- with no warning lights and no barrier to stop vehicles from coming when a train approaches.

``There's a lot of crying.''

Neighbor Sam Asadurian said Withington was like a member of his family.

``He was a great, great man, one of the nicest there is. It's hard losing him,'' he said.

Moorpark City Councilwoman Rosanne Mikos called Withington's death ``a real tragedy.''

``You wish you could turn back the clock,'' she said.

Withington is survived by his wife; his daughters, Toni Webber and Jan Christian; and son, Harvey Withington.

A graveside service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, 5400 Valentine Road, Ventura.

eric.leach@dailynews.com

(805) 583-7602
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 28, 2007
Words:522
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