Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

California Pickup Driver Killed At Dangerous, Unguarded BNSF Crossing

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Le Grand, California – June 19, 2012)

A 28-year-old resident of Merced, CA, on his way to work as a horse trainer, was seriously injured and later died of his injuries after his late-model, black Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck was struck and spun several times by a 5,000-ton, 60 mph Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train just before 10:00 A.M. Tuesday at a dangerous, unguarded private crossing of BNSF railroad tracks just outside of Le Grand, CA.

Juan Jose’ Hernandez was traveling northbound on Santa Fe Avenue, paralleling the BNSF tracks, when he turned off onto a private road leading to his friend’s ranch where he trained horses once a week. The BNSF train, also travelling north, struck the right front corner of the truck, spinning it, blowing out both doors, and ejecting the victim, who was thrown an estimated 70 feet as parts of his truck were strewn dozens of yards from the point of impact.

Hernandez’s truck ”turned right onto a private crossing, and just as it slowed, it met the train,” related California Highway Patrol Officer Chris Rodenburg. The crossing is equipped only with passive signage and completely lacks any form of automatic protection for motorists such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates even though Federal Railroad Administration statistics show that the crossing is use by 42 trains daily at speeds as high as 79 mph.

“The truck looks terrible,” observed the victim’s friend, Rosendo Ceja, who rushed to the scene when he heard his friend had been involved in a serious accident.

The victim was flown to Mercy Hospital in Merced, CA suffering from major head injuries and arm fractures, but was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

As so often occurs, authorities said they did not suspect the deceased of having been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, thus allowing for speculation, and indicated no citations were issued.


Railroad News


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James Perrin Lubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluen Harriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. Miller Mandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. Clark Austin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert Schuetze Boulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike Easley Arkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger Brown Jefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8