(Lubbock, Teas – May 16, 2012)
Some railroad crossing authorities never seem to learn from past problems. Such was the case Wednesday night, May 16, when a semi-trailer truck loaded with 85 head of cattle headed for a feed lot became hung up on the low ground clearance crossing of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks and Feed Lot Road in Lubbock, TX.
Jesus Lara, owner of the 1994 White Freight Liner tractor and the 1996 silver livestock trailer being operated for his El Paso, TX-based Total Livestock Corporation, blamed the “significant difference between the height of the tracks and the asphalt on either side” for the 18-wheeler getting stuck.
“The trailers and trucks get stuck at that crossing often,” according to Lara, adding that “All the other times they got lucky because there was no train coming. This time, they were not so lucky.”
The hung up trailer was struck by a BNSF train travelling 50 miles per hour which resulted in death for 22 of the cows on board the multi-deck trailer. This accident is nearly identical to an accident April 4, 2011 (barely a year earlier), when another cattle truck was hit by a BNSF train after it high-centered on the same elevated crossing.
The driver of the cattle truck, identified only as Rene, was on the phone with a Lubbock 911 operator when the train appeared, striking the loaded trailer, and leaving a trail of dead and injured cattle for several hundred yards along the railroad right-of-way.
Lubbock Police said 13 of the unfortunate, helpless animals were killed by the train’s impact and dragging of the trailer, which the train’s locomotive separated from the tractor. The driver had escaped the cab prior to impact when his attempt to have 911 contact BNSF became futile.
Another nine badly injured steers were shot by Lubbock Police “because they were suffering.” The remaining 20 animals were rounded up by law enforcement personnel and volunteers on horseback.
Joe Faust, BNSF’s Fort Worth-based Public Affairs Manager said that the train was equipped with a camera and that BNSF will review its recording to find out exactly what happened.
No mention was made of any intent to share the video with Lubbock Police personnel investigating the tragedy.