(Kelso, Washington – April6, 2011)
A myriad of state and federal regulatory agencies are participating in the investigation of the accident at a private Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad crossing on BNSF property which resulted in the deaths of a shuttle van driver and two BNSF employees, as well as critical injuries to a third, on March 23. The train crew were picked up after the completion of their tour of duty and were being shuttled to a motel in Vancouver, Washington when the SUV-type van was struck by a 106-car grain train pulled by three locomotives. The Kelso Police Dept., the lead agency in the investigation, will reconstruct the facts of the accident based upon physical evidence. Also taking roles of responsibility in the investigation will be the Washington State Dept. of Labor and Industries, the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, and the Federal Railroad Administration. The FRA investigates roughly 100 railroad accidents annually, said Warren Flatau, the agency’s senior public affairs analyst. “Our primary focus is to prevent similar events in the future,” Flatau said Tuesday. The FRA investigation will take up to nine months, after which the report will undergo a series of reviews to ensure that it is both comprehensive and sound. If Federal regulations were found to have been violated in this case, the FRA could take enforcement action such as assigning civil penalties and fines.