(Benedict, Kansas – January 15, 2015)
A Wilson County, KS employee, as well as the locomotive engineer and conductor of a 104-car-long Union Pacific train, were all hospitalized at the Fredonia Hospital in Fredonia, KS after a collision between a Wilson County 2003 Mack dump truck loaded with gravel and the aforementioned train at the crossing of Kansas Highway 39 and UPRR tracks Thursday morning at about 10:15 A.M near the Wilson County community of Benedict, KS.
Massive traffic detours were created when the force of the crash caused two locomotives and eight empty grain hopper cars to derail and pile up in and adjacent to the K-39 roadway. A ninth car was partially derailed, and contract derailment clearing crews were working to restore traffic routes to normalcy, an operation estimated to take days to complete.
Fred L. Smith, 63, of Fredonia, an employee of the Wilson County Road and Bridge Dept., reported possible braking problems with his vehicle when he attempted to stop at the lighted, gated crossing and avoid the collision. Union Pacific employees Michael Halworth, 47, of Kansas City and Joshua Willard, 34, of Greeley were also injured as the two large forces came together.
Wilson County head of Emergency Management Terry Lyons said Fredonia firefighters responded to the crash and had to create an earthen dam to contain diesel fuel that was leaking from one of the locomotives.
The accident was being investigated by the Kansas Highway Patrol’s Motor Carrier Inspection Office.