(Red Oak, Iowa – April 18, 2011)
Two BNSF railroad employees died about 7:00 A.M. yesterday (Sunday) morning in the unincorporated Iowa town of McPherson (between Council Bluffs and Red Oak) when an eastbound 130-car Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train loaded with Powder River Basin coal rear-ended a stopped eastbound 34-car train loaded with railroad right-of-way maintenance equipment. The engineer and conductor of the coal train were both killed, while no injuries were suffered on the maintenance train. The line is double-track and part of the railroad’s Chicago-to-Denver main line.
Less than a month ago, two more BNSF employees and a contract van driver died in Washington state when a van carrying train crew members was demolished when hit by another BNSF train at a private crossing on BNSF property. A third member of the train crew, who were being transported to a motel following completion of their shift, remains hospitalized. In standard railroad public relations operating procedure, a BNSF spokesman in Seattle, Gus Melonas, refused to comment on the circumstances of the crew members’ deaths because the incident is still under investigation.
Names of victims were not released, nor would Mr. Melonas speculate on how long cleanup of the accident scene would take. By Monday morning one main track had been opened while the eastbound main remained closed as the accident investigation continues. Mr. Melonas also said that officials of the National Transportation Safety Board had arrived on scene and “have taken over the accident investigation”.