(Austin, Minnesota – April 8, 2011)
A railroad crossing accident which killed an 18-year-old high school senior in a snowy February 1 unsignalized crossing collision with a Canadian Pacific-subsidiary Iowa, Chicago & Eastern (ICE) Railroad train was finally reconstructed Thursday morning – more than two months after the tragedy. Austin Pacelli High School Senior football star Joe Lewison lost his life at the ICE County Road 4 railroad crossing when his pickup truck was hit by the CP-subsidiary train. The crossing was equipped with only signs and no signals. Law enforcement officials – who were not even made aware of the accident reconstruction activity — said icy conditions possibly played a role.
A conductor who works for a different railroad and wished to be left anonymous, witnessed the reconstruction Thursday, and said accident reconstructions should take place the day after an accident happens. While some accidents are not reconstructed because they are so cut and dried, he said, this one should have been done immediately. “I think they (CPR) screwed up so bad that they had to do the re-enactment yesterday,” he said Friday morning. “With these circumstances, they should have re-enacted it the next day. It needs to be the closest situation possible to when it happened. There isn’t even any snow left anymore,” he concluded.
Canadian Pacific Spokesman T. J. Nelson told The Austin Daily Herald that railroad officials were gathering measurement data “to ensure we have the best information for the investigation.” However, the CPR/ICE spokesman would not comment on the investigation or the reasons behind it.
When asked why the reconstruction was being conducted more than two months after the tragic occurrence, Nelson said he did not know when accident re-creations are normally done or why this one was happening more than two months after the fact. Regardless, Mower County law enforcement officials confirmed that toxicology tests were conducted on the deceased, but not on any member of the train’s crew. Joe Lewison’s mother, Mary Lewison, who visited the re-enactment scene, said CPR/ICE officials would only tell her they were conducting “routine surveying.”