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Pedestrian Killed in North Dakota Quiet Zone When Hit by Second Train Obscured by First Train

(Casselton, North Dakota – October 14, 2012)

A 69-year-old resident of Casselton, ND was killed Saturday afternoon at about 4:09 P.M. when he waited on the north side of the tracks for a westbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train to pass over the crossing of North Dakota Highway 18 (Langer Avenue) in Casselton, and was hit by a train in the opposite direction.

A witness said he saw Eugene Kaatz wait for the first train and then, even though the crossing gates were still down and the lights still flashing, walked directly into the path of the eastbound train that was hidden from his view by the train he had waited for. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Dave Wolf said that the Langer Avenue crossing is in a Federal Railroad Administration “Quiet Zone”, where trains sound their horns only in emergencies. The second train allegedly sounded its horn just as the victim stepped onto the tracks, but it was too close for him to be able to make an evasive move.

The FRA grade crossing inventory says that the crossing’s double tracks accommodate an average of 52 trains daily at a top speed of 60 mph.

Although Sgt. Wolf said it was too early to know if the Quiet Zone had anything to do with the tragedy, a clerk at the Petro Serve USA convenience store/gasoline station felt that it did.

The Quiet Zone was established this past summer, said Paige Cote, and “With the Quiet Zone, they (the public) assume it automatically makes it (the crossing) safe,” she observed, adding “But I think it puts everybody at ease maybe more than it should. It kind of takes away from the necessity of still looking for the train.”

Besides the NDHP, respondents included the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and the Cass County Coroner.