(Sabin, Minnesota – February 2, 2014)
A 91-year-old rural Sabin, MN man was killed by an Otter Tail Valley “train” consisting only of several locomotives when his 83-year-old wife drove the couple’s SUV over the dangerous and unguarded intersection of the OTVRR and CR 67/First Street South just a short distance from their rural Sabin, MN home Sunday afternoon about 1:40 P.M.
Gloria Briden had just left the couple’s home with her husband, William Briden, in the passenger seat when they encountered the crossing, which is equipped solely with standard, passive railroad cross-buck signs which cannot possibly give warning of oncoming trains. Only properly functioning active devices such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates can give motorists the message that a train is coming. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both Otter Tail Valley and Operation Lifesaver know 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 can gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
Severely injured, Mrs. Briden was airlifted to Sanford Health hospital in Fargo, ND, just across the state line, while Mr. Briden’s body will be sent to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy according to Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist.
Sabin’s experience with rail crossing tragedy has not been a positive one. Out of 11 crossings in or near the community of about 500, only one crossing has any form of active protection. Meanwhile, the less than a dozen road/rail intersections have been the sites of eight accidents resulting in two deaths and five non-fatal injuries, with Sunday’s tragedy included in those figures, since the Federal Railroad Administration began keeping records in the 1970’s.
The rail line through Sabin was once owned by Burlington Northern, but was sold to the Genesee & Wyoming short line and regional railroad conglomerate headquartered in Connecticut and owner or operator of 111 domestic and foreign railroad companies. The OTVRR operates a daily average of three trains through Sabin at a top allowable speed of 40 mph.
The last fatality in Sabin occurred in 2004 at the Clay County Road 10 intersection with the OTVRR, another crossing having only passive signage to indicate the presence of a railroad track but with no capability of keeping trains and motor vehicles apart through automatic protective devices. Fargo, ND Chiropractor David Schwanke, who lived in Sabin with his wife, Beth was killed on Valentine’s Day when another string of locomotives pulling no freight cars struck the then-45-year-old man. His widow, who now lives in Sugar Land, TX, spoke to Fargo-Moorhead Forum Reporter David Olson Sunday, saying that her question to the OTVRR after the tragedy was “Why don’t you put up the bars that come down?”
“My heart goes out to those people (the Briden’s) said Beth in a phone interview, adding that news of Sunday’s tragedy was a painful reminder of the death of her husband.