(Rudd, Iowa – April 20, 2013)
Two men from Waterloo, IA, traveling through the possibly unfamiliar community of Rudd, IA, became the victims of the fourth Iowa railroad crossing tragedy in the month of April Saturday morning at about 9:05 A.M. The men’s 2002 Ford350 pickup truck that they were driving north on Fourth Street was struck by a westbound Canadian Pacific freight train at the dangerous, unguarded intersection of CP tracks and Fourth Street, impaled upon the locomotive’s snowplow, and dragged about a quarter of a mile before the train came to a halt.
Killed was the passenger, Brian Allen Leckness, 32, and critically injured was the driver, Gary Lee Eilers, 73, as Iowa suffered the fourth serious accident, fourth fatality and fifth serious injury resultant from collisions between trains and highway vehicles in the Hawkeye State since April 1.
The crossing of Fourth Street is, like most railroad crossings in Rudd, is “protected” only by standard, passive railroad crossbuck signs, with the only crossing (Sixth Street) employing flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, having had its active signal system heavily damaged as the train dragged the pickup, with both victims inside, through the Floyd County community. Three sets of railroad tracks, one widely separated from the other two, cross Fourth Street in the shadow of a large grain storage facility, and Rudd has been no stranger to train/highway tragedies in the past, according both to Federal Railroad Administration records and the residents of the city.
“There have been three accidents in three months,” at the four crossings in Rudd recounted local resident Richard Burcham, who heard the sirens as emergency and law enforcement forces responded to Saturday’s accident. “When they (the trains) aren’t stopping, they come through at a pretty good clip.”
Rudd City Clerk Lori Peterson was in agreement with Burcham’s assessment, saying that CP Rail trains roll “pretty quickly” through Rudd. The Federal Railroad Administration reports that the timetable speed limit for the four CP freight trains which pass through Rudd daily is 40 mph.
Leckness was pronounced dead at the scene, while Eilers was transported by Mercy Air Med helicopter first to Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in Mason City, IA before being transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, MN, where he was listed in critical condition. The Iowa State Patrol, Floyd County Sheriff’s Dept., Mason City and Nora Springs ambulance services, and both Rudd and Nora Springs Fire Departments, all responded to the tragic Saturday morning accident.
Saturday’s tragedy followed an April 1 double fatality at Batavia, IA, where two young sisters died and their mother and younger sister were injured when a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train, hidden from view of the victims by a train standing on a parallel track, struck their minivan, a serious injury to a father driving his son to school in Ogden, IA, whose vehicle was demolished by a Union Pacific train April 12, and the death of a 74-year-old Fort Dodge, IA woman whose minivan was struck and dragged a quarter of a mile at the Hayes Avenue/Union Pacific RR crossing near Moorland, IA Thursday evening.
The last three accidents occurred at railroad crossings protected only by passive signage, lacking the active systems utilizing flashing lights, bells and gates railroad industry sources claim could prevent over 90 percent of such railroad-related incidents.