(Granville, North Dakota – November 24, 2015)
The driver of a semi-trailer truck loaded with gravel was surprised and struck by Amtrak’s westbound “Empire Builder” with about 180 passengers on board at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of 11th Avenue and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks just before 1:00 P.M. Monday.
The collision, which according to Federal Railroad Administration documents, was the second to occur at the crossing which does not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates to warn motorists of the approach of any of the 40 BNSF freight and Amtrak passenger trains which cross daily at a top allowable speed of 60 mph. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Amtrak, BNSF and Operation Lifesaver all 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 12:45 P.M. collision not only sent truck driver Joseph Locher, 58, of Minot, ND to Minot’s Trinity Hospital with injuries described only as “non-life-threatening”, but also left a number of passengers complaining of neck strains and other minor injuries.
The train, which continued a quarter of a mile beyond the road/rail intersection that occurs only a short distance from 11th Avenue’s junction with the four-lane, divided North Dakota Highway 2, also known as 57th Street North, as it parallels the BNSF tracks, split the Kenworth tractor from its loaded gravel semi trailer.