(Larimore, North Dakota – May 17, 2012)
The 23-year-old driver of a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt was badly injured in the early morning darkness about 6:30 A.M. Thursday when he collided with Amtrak’s “Empire Builder” passenger train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks and Grand Forks County Road 20 four miles west of Larimore, ND.
The crossing is equipped only with passive signs to “protect” motorists from oncoming trains, completely lacking any automatic signals like flashing lights, bells or gates. The road surface is gravel and North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Dolph Oldenburg said the driver’s vision might have been obscured by a grove of trees near the crossing in the direction of the train’s approach. Regardless, the driver, Justin Larsen of Niagara, ND, saw the 79 mph train too late to stop, skidded a short distance on the gravel, and struck the train four cars behind the locomotive.
Larsen’s northbound car, which was knocked 50 feet from the point of impact and came to rest in a trackside ditch, was virtually totaled by the westbound train, and he was taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, ND for treatment of head and neck injuries.