Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Four Hurt as BNSF Oil Train Hits Semi Carrying Anhydrous Ammonia at Unguarded, Dangerous Crossing

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Murdock, Minnesota – May 7, 2013)

 The second collision this year between a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train and an 18-wheeler at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of 100th Avenue SE and BNSF rails resulted in injury to both the driver of the tank truck, which was carrying anhydrous ammonia, and three members of the train crew about 8:30 A.M. Tuesday morning near the small western Minnesota community of Murdock.

The Kansas City-bound train struck the rear of the tank truck’s trailer, spinning it around and compromising the trailer through a small leak of the extremely toxic contents generally used as farm fertilizer. The crossing is adjacent to the Koch Nitrogen Plant and has only standard, passive railroad crossbuck and highway “stop” signs as protection from the 13 trains that traverse the crossing daily at a top allowable speed of 40 mph.

Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless gas which gives off a sweet odor and is mainly used as fertilizer. However, in concentrated amounts, exposure to the toxic gas can lead to severe respiratory injuries, lung damage and even death.

Even though authorities claimed the situation posed no danger, police still shut down Minnesota Highway 12, which parallels the BNSF railroad tracks for miles, and students were evacuated from the Murdock Elementary School and transferred to a safe haven at the district’s high school building in Kerkhoven, MN as a precaution.

On January 23 of this year, a similar accident occurred between a BNSF train and an 18-wheeler, and a third such train/semi-trailer truck collision was recorded at the same intersection October 5, 2005. Yet, with all the warnings through repeated, similar accidents, railroad, state and county officials obviously see no reason to install active crossing protection devices such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates even though the Association of American Railroads released a study five years ago that claimed the presence of such signalization could prevent 93% of the accidents and deaths occurring at railroad crossings.


Railroad News


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James Perrin Lubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluen Harriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. Miller Mandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. Clark Austin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert Schuetze Boulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike Easley Arkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger Brown Jefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8