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Family Sues BNSF Over Wrongful Death Of Father Of Three

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Sioux Falls, South Dakota – October 19, 2011)

The mother of the youngest of the three children of Robert Defries, who was 36 years old when he was struck and killed at a rural, dangerous, unguarded crossing of 259th Street and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks just north of Corson, SD on March 17, 2009, has filed a wrongful death suit against the railroad in Minnehaha County, SD.

A BNSF freight train struck the corner of Defries’ 1984 Chevrolet pickup, flipping the truck and killing him instantly. Although specific damage amounts were not disclosed, Sharrie Kilmer, who is both mother to Defries’ youngest child as well as executor of the victim’s estate, is asking for “damages to cover the plumber’s (Defries’ occupation) anticipated income, burial expenses, financial support for his three children, and punitive damages for pain, suffering and loss to compensate his family”.

According to the filing, BNSF is accused of “negligence for failing to properly mark the low-visibility intersection beyond two small crossing signs (standard railroad crossbucks).”

Attorney Rick Ramstad of Sioux Falls, SD explained that “This is an intersection where you come down a hill and there’s zero visibility because of all the vegetation.”

At the scene that day, South Dakota Highway Patrol Officer Brandon Marienau told news media that “We don’t suspect any negligence on the part of the railroad company.”

Amy McBeth, representatives of BNSF, declined to comment on the filing Friday, offering only that “We will be reviewing the filing and will respond through the legal process.”


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