(Blue Earth, Minnesota – August 31, 2016)
A Blue Earth, MN man was airlifted to a Rochester, MN hospital Wednesday morning after his northbound SUV was struck by railroad-mounted maintenance of way machine at about 8:00 A.M., CDT. The collision took place at the unguarded Union Pacific Railroad crossing of 400th Avenue just southeast of Blue Earth.
No condition for 24-year-old Justin Elzenga was given, but he was admitted to a Rochester, MN hospital after being airlifted by helicopter from the scene for treatment of the injuries he received in the collision. His northbound 2004 Ford Expedition was struck on the passenger’s side by the maintenance of way machine which was moving in a northwesterly direction. First responders had to work for quite some time to extricate the stricken victim from the wreckage of the SUV.
Track-mounted railroad maintenance machines, while sometimes as large as a locomotive themselves, are notorious for their frequent failure to trigger railroad grade crossing gates and signals at crossings. They can be ever more dangerous at non-signalized crossings, such as the 400th Avenue/UPRR intersection which is not equipped with any active warning devices. The crossing accommodates two daily UPRR freight trains at maximum speeds of 40 mph and is on a regular school bus route.
The Faribault County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota State Patrol and Blue Earth Police Department all responded to the collision.