(Murdock, Minnesota – May 13, 2013)
Two days after hazardous material clean-up crews were celebrating the end of two days of chaos and the securing of the scene of a collision between a three locomotive, 102-car Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train, family and co-workers of the driver of the 18-wheel tanker which was struck at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of a township road near the Koch Nitrogen Fertilizer terminal in Murdock, MN were mourning his death after lingering in serious condition at a St. Cloud, MN hospital since being airlifted from the accident scene early Tuesday morning at about 8:30 A.M.
Eric Westin of Pine City, MN had just left the plant with a full load of anhydrous ammonia when the train struck, dragged and ruptured his semi at a crossing marked only with passive signage and lacking any of the flashing lights/bells/crossing gates protective systems. An Association of American Railroads study conducted about five years ago showed that 93% of both accidents at and deaths resultant from railroad grade crossing accidents could be prevented. Westin died at the St. Cloud Hospital from his injuries early Monday morning.
The wreck had caused the evacuation of the elementary school in Murdock, MN, as well as the closure of U.S. Highway 12, which parallels BNSF tracks between Murdock and DeGraff, MN, and hazardous material remediation efforts were originally estimated to be necessary through the weekend. Swift County Emergency Management Director Bill McGeary credited a change in tactics allowing for a quicker-than-expected emptying of the tank truck trailer, and said that some of the anhydrous ammonia that had become co-mingled with ground water was being removed from the wreck site and posed no hazard. Crews then concentrated their efforts on removing the wreckage of the truck and the BNSF locomotives, a task that was completed this past weekend.