(Willmar, Minnesota – February 11, 2015)
A 22-year-old local driver escaped death Wednesday evening at about 8:00 P.M. when his Saturn Ion crossed paths with a BNSF freight train at the dangerous and unguarded intersection of BNSF railroad tracks and 45th Street NW just outside of Willmar, MN.
Zachary Ronald Morris was driving southbound on 45th Street NW when he collided with the westbound train at the crossing which lacked any form of active protective devices, such as flashing lights and gates, to warn of the average of 13 daily trains which can travel at a maximum 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 accident, which was investigated by the Minnesota State Patrol, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office and Willmar Police Dept., was the third collision between trains and motor vehicles to occur at the crossing.