(New Prague, Minnesota – May 19, 2015)
A 30-year-old truck driver from Cottage Grove, MN suffered burns and other undisclosed injuries Tuesday afternoon at about 2:00 P.M. at the dangerous and unguarded grade crossing of Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Scott County Road 2 just north of New Prague, MN when he stopped and then proceeded into the path of a train he apparently neither saw nor heard.
Scott County Sheriff’s officers confirmed that the as-yet unidentified driver of a box truck pulling a flatbed trailer loaded with directional boring equipment complied with the stop signs at the cross-buck-equipped rural crossing, but was struck by the train and had his truck separated from the trailer and dragged some 600 feet as the collision set railroad ties afire as it pushed the impaled truck until the loaded grain train stopped.
Documentation obtained from Federal Railroad Administration sources claim that the crossing accommodates three trains daily at a speed of 10 mph. State Highway 21 closely parallels UPRR tracks along that corridor, making for difficult and dangerous traffic situations for motorists. Yet the crossing has no active warning devices , such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both Union 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%.
The driver was pulled from the burning wreckage of his truck cab and sent by Air Care helicopter to the Hennepin County Medical Center’s triage unit in Minneapolis, MN.
Witness Matt Egan of New Prague, MN told KSTP-TV that “I could see the truck had been struck between the cab and where the box of the truck starts. It literally separated the cab right off the frame.”