(Brooten, Minnesota – January 13, 2016)
A 31-year-old snow plow operator was hospitalized in serious condition at a St. Cloud, MN Hospital following a collision with a 109-car Canadian Pacific freight train he likely never saw or heard at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of CP rails and 493rd Avenue on the Stearns/Pope County, MN line Wednesday morning at about 8:51 A.M., CST. The snow plow operator was working for a snow removal firm contracted to the City of Brooten, MN and North Fork Township
Darin Pierce of Pennock, MN, an employee of Carlson Blading, driving the 1996 Ford dump truck loaded with sand and equipped with front and side bladed snowplow attachments, was removing snow from southbound 493rd Avenue when he was struck by the train.
The victim was ejected through the truck’s windshield, and was first transported to Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood, MN, and then transferred to St. Cloud Hospital, where he was admitted for treatment of his serious injuries. The heavily-damaged truck was hauled from the crash site by a heavy-duty wrecker.
According to information on the Federal Railroad Administration’s website, the CP/493rd Avenue crossing accommodates a daily average of 20 trains, which can operate at maximum speeds of 40 mph. As previously mentioned, the crossing is not protected by any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Both Canadian Pacific 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%
Lead investigative agency was the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department, and assistance was provided by the Minnesota State Patrol, the MSP Commercial Vehicle Inspection Division, and the Pope County Sheriff’s Office. Emergency response was provided by Brooten Fire and Rescue and Brooten Ambulance.