(Swink, Colorado – September 14, 2015)
A dangerous and unguarded rural Otero County, CO railroad grade crossing became the site of another tragic death Monday morning at about 7:25 A.M., MDT when an eastbound BNSF freight train struck and heavily damaged a northbound Ford F-150 pickup truck at the intersection of BNSF rails and County Road 23 just north of the community of Swink, CO, near Pueblo.
Francis Milenski, 53, of Rocky Ford, CO, died after being transported to a Pueblo, CO hospital from the injuries he received when the train struck the driver’s side of his vehicle as he approached the divided, four-lane U.S. Highway 50 that parallels the former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway line. The railroad tracks accommodate a daily average of 17 BNSF freight trains at a top speed of 55 mph. The heavy vehicular traffic on the adjacent highway, only a few feet beyond the road/rail intersection, could have been a distraction to the motorist.
The victim was ejected from his truck as the train’s impact spun the pickup clockwise and knocked it some distance southeast from the crossing, causing it to come to rest upright.
Colorado State Patrol troopers investigating the tragedy ruled out excessive speed, alcohol or drugs from potential factors in the accident. However, as previously mentioned, this crossing did not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident one would not have happened. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
The CR 23/BNSF crossing had experienced a single, non-fatal injury causing collision in past history.