(Paulden, Arizona – November 10, 2012)
A 71-year-old local rancher escaped with his life, but lost three of his best friends in Paulden, AZ early Saturday morning at about 7:20 A.M. when he got his pickup truck across the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Verde Ranch Road and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks before the double-stall horse trailer he was pulling was struck, dragged and destroyed by a BNSF freight train hauling 80 hopper cars loaded with grain pulled by three and pushed by a fourth locomotive.
The horse trailer, containing two horses, was dislodged from the pickup’s trailer hitch and dragged about 100 feet before being cast along the railroad tracks. Both horses as well as a dog riding in the truck bed were killed, while a second dog was injured and was transported to an emergency veterinary clinic by Yavapai County Animal Control, who responded to the accident along with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.
The as-yet unidentified rancher escaped without injury, but lost thousands of dollars and suffered extensive stress in the deaths of his two horses and the destruction of his horse trailer. And even though the BNSF/Verde Ranch Road crossing is “protected” only with standard, passive railroad crossbuck signs rather than flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, the driver was ticketed by Sheriff’s deputies for “failure to stop at a railroad crossing”.
BNSF Railway investigators also arrived at the tragic scene to gather evidence, obtain crew statements, salvage recorded videotaped data from the lead locomotive’s cab, and to encourage sheriff’s officers to write the aforementioned traffic citation.
The driver said he never saw nor heard the train as he was blinded by the morning sun and he had partially-iced windows and his defroster operating. The crossing accommodates an average of nine trains daily at a top speed of 49 mph.