(Mandan, North Dakota – December 13, 2014)
The operator of a Bobcat end loader was killed Saturday afternoon at about 1:40 P.M., CST when his machine was struck by a 121-car BNSF coal train being pulled by three locomotives. The operator was working on a dangerous and unguarded dirt railroad crossing on a privatized portion of Morton County Highway 83, about 10 miles southwest of Mandan, ND.
Glen Kuether, 77, of Mandan was pronounced dead at the scene after the train, which he probably never saw nor heard. It is unclear of the train even blew its horn as Federal Railroad Administration regulations do not require train engineers to sound their locomotive horn as they approach crossings considered private.
The crossing is also not equipped with any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident 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%.
Although County Highway 83 is mainly a two-lane, paved road, it culminates as a barely-two-lane country dirt road after county maintenance ends.
BNSF operates a daily average of 22 trains through the rail corridor at a maximum allowable speed of 4o mph. According to the railroad, the train that hit and killed the victim was traveling at 30 mph.