(Union, Nebraska – February 25, 2014)
The driver of a tank truck hauling propane gas was killed Tuesday morning at about 11:00 A.M. when his eastbound vehicle was struck on the passenger side of the cab by a northbound Union Pacific freight train pulling 110 empty grain cars at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Otoe County Road “C” and UP railroad tracks.
John P. Bruns, 51, of Elmwood, NE was driving the loaded propane truck for Drake’s Propane Service in Avoca, NE, and leaves behind a grieving wife and two children.
A large grove of trees block a clear sight triangle for eastbound motorists of northbound trains, which was the exact scenario in Tuesday’s tragedy. As previously mentioned, this incident happened at a dangerous, unguarded crossing. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this incident. Both (Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National) and Operation Lifesaver know 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%.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, the crossing accommodates a daily average of 15 trains at a top permissible speed of 50 mph.
The UPRR/county Road “C” grade crossing lacks any form of active warning devices like flashing lights, bells and crossing gates, which, if present and functioning properly, certainly would have prevented the fatal tragedy which escaped being a horrendous explosion by only a few feet.
Otoe County Attorney David Partsch said that the locomotive collided with the truck near the cab, and that the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Had the collision point been with the propane-filled tank, a conflagration could have resulted.
“These crossings are bad,” Partsch told assembled news media responding to the collision.
When contacted by phone in his Omaha, NE office, Union Pacific veteran public relations official Mark Davis acknowledged the presence of a video camera in the locomotive’s nose, but told KETV, Omaha Reporter Tony Cornett that it would be up to Otoe County officials to release any details of today’s crash.