Longview, Washington – March 23, 2011) Two Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad employees and a driver from a private railroad shuttle service died in this southern Washington community about 4:30 P.M. Wednesday afternoon. The three men were crossing at a private railroad crossing owned and maintained by BNSF, when the van was struck by a Seattle-bound grain train consisting of three locomotives and 106 loaded grain cars. The vehicle had picked up the Seattle-based train crew in the train yard at South Kelso to transport them to motel facilities in Vancouver, Washington.
The crossing contained 3 railroad tracks intersecting the road and included a BNSF mainline track which accommodated approximately 25 trains a day at often at speeds of 50 miles per hour. It was reported that a second train was sitting parked on the middle track obstructing the view of the driver. The crossing lacks lighted signals, but has railroad crossbuck and stop signs.
Eyewitness reports throw doubt on whether a train whistle warning was ever sounded before the collision occurred. The van driver and one crew member died at the scene, a second crew member died while being life flighted to a hospital, and a third crew member was transported in serious condition to a hospital in Portland. The badly-damaged van was knocked down a 25-foot-high embankment about 50 feet from the crossing.