(Carlton County, Minnesota – August 22, 2012)
A 67-year-old mother, grandmother and retired teacher was killed early Wednesday morning at about 7:58 A.M. when the vehicle she was driving was struck and dragged at least a mile by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of East Mud Lake Road (Carlton County Road 127) and BNSF Railroad tracks near Wright, MN.
Susan McPhail, originally from Cloquet, MN and a former teacher who taught in the Carlton School District for many years before retiring and moving to New Mexico, probably never saw or heard the train due to the early morning sunlight.
The victim, the mother of three adult children and grandmother of six, was in the area visiting family and friends at the time of the tragic accident.
The crossing of CR 127 and BNSF tracks does not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both BNSF and Operation Lifesaver know that 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 and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
Both the Minnesota State Patrol and the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office investigated the accident with assistance from BNSF Railway.