(Wyanet, Illinois – November 22, 2018)
A 25-year-old male farmer lost his life at an unguarded, but legal, private crossing of BNSF railroad tracks near the Bureau County community of Wyanet, IL. The collision tragically occurred last Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) morning about 9:35 A.M., CST. The victim was labeled as a “trespasser” by an Amtrak spokesman in an official post-tragedy news release. However, it has since been proven that the farmer was traversing a legal private crossing and was authorized to use the crossing.
The victim, Andrew Frese, of Buda, IL, was operating a farm tractor and hauling a trailer loaded with anhydrous ammonia, which is used as a crop fertilizer, when he was struck by the high speed Amtrak train. The train was traveling at 79 mph at the time of the collision. Mr. Frese likely never saw it coming. Mr. Frese was pronounced dead at the scene by Bureau County Coroner Janice Wamhoff.
Amtrak Spokesperson Jason Abrams said in an official communication to the news media that “Amtrak train #381, (the) Carl Sandburg was traveling between Chicago and Quincy, IL, when it came in contact with a farm equipment tractor illegally trespassing on the tracks.” To further confuse the issue, the Amtrak e-mail release said there was only an injury to an Amtrak employee (thought to be the locomotive engineer), and no injuries suffered by any of the 180 passengers on board the westbound train, which was operating in 79 mph maximum speed territory, KWQC TV News and The Bureau County Republican reported that the injured engineer and one passenger were transported to Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, IL, while five other passengers were taken to St, Luke’s Medical Center in Kewanee. IL. Public officials said all the injured were in “stable” condition.
The uninjured passengers were transported by bus to Princeton, IL, where they were taken to their Thanksgiving Day destinations through what Amtrak termed as “alternative transportation.”
Frese is survived by his wife, Kayla, and two children.