(Litchfield, Minnesota – July 14, 2016)
A 24-year-old Litchfield, MN man was injured early Thursday morning at about 8:22 A.M., CDT, when he was struck by a BNSF freight train at a private grade crossing serving a local industry near the Meeker County, MN community of Litchfield.
Local resident Tanner Gassman was transported to Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield with minor injuries in an accident. Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze told Reporter Gretchen Brown of The Grand Forks Herald “the outcome of this accident could have been far worse.” The Sherriff added to a reporter from The Litchfield Independent Review that “I’ve not been to many train collisions where someone walked away.”
The victim approached the crossing, which did not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates, and was hit in the rear by an eastbound BNSF freight train. The crossing serves the Litchfield Machine Works grain conveyor system manufacturing plant just off U.S. Highway 12. According to Federal Railroad Administration kept records, the crossing is crossed by an average of 16 BNSF trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 40 mph.
It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision 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%.