(Campbell, Minnesota – May 4, 2015)
A local farmer, driving a farm sprayer across BNSF railroad tracks in the extreme northwestern part of Minnesota, just across the state line from North Dakota, was hit by a BNSF freight train at the dangerous, unguarded and non-equilateral crossing of Wilkin County Road 156, at about 8:00 A.M. CDT Monday morning.
Minnesota Highway 9 closely parallels BNSF tracks, which intersect with CR 156 (also known as both 430th Street and County 56) at an extremely obtuse or acute angle, dependent upon the direction of travel. The crossing certainly lacks the needed safety elements that only crossing gates, bells and flashing lights can provide to effectively give warning of the 11 trains that cross daily at a top speed of 40 mph.
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%.
The victim, Bradley Toussaint of Wahpeton, ND, was knocked off his farm machinery and thrown some 25 feet from the point of impact. Given the assistance of witness Darrel Helm, he was able to limp to the ambulance which rushed him to CHI St. Francis Health hospital in Breckenridge, MN.
Certainly, the crossing is a serious danger to school students who ride aboard the two daily school buses which use the crossing. The situation is no different than that which killed a bus driver and a high school student and injured 10 other children just four months ago in Larimore, ND, only a few miles across the MN/ND state line.
Minnesota State Highway Patrol Trooper Jesse Grabow was investigating the near-fatality, which completely destroyed the expensive piece of farm equipment the victim was driving.