(Havre, Montana – December 14, 2015)
Amtrak’s eastbound “Empire Builder” train with 108 passengers on board struck a southbound 2007 Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck at the dangerous and unguarded road/rail crossing of Kremlin High Road and BNSF railroad tracks at about 12:50 P.M., MST Monday, killing one of the truck’s occupants and sending the driver and the other passenger to Northern Montana Hospital in Havre with undisclosed injuries. According to Federal Railroad Administration documents, 39 Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight and Amtrak passenger trains go through the intersection in Hill County, west of Havre, MT daily at top speeds of 79 mph. The FRA database also indicates that there have been two prior collisions at this crossing.
Joshua D. Byler, 20, of Moore, MT, was pronounced dead at the scene after the train struck the pickup’s bed, spun and overturned it, ejecting both the victim and the other passenger, a 35-year-old unidentified man, also from Moore. The driver, a 20-year-old Shepard, MT man, was also not identified by investigating Montana Highway Patrol .troopers. The MHP said that road conditions on the dirt-surfaced county road early Monday afternoon were “snow and ice.”
Despite the previous accidents and the high speed and volume of train traffic, there are no active warning devices, such as lights and gates, at this crossing. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident and the two prior accidents 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%.