The engineer and conductor crewing a Canadian National Railway (CNR) freight train suffered injuries requiring hospital treatment in a collision with another train in Slinger, Wisconsin (WI). The crash occurred on July 21, 2014.
According to a detailed report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a Wisconsin & Southern Railroad train was using a CNR track that crossed the main line being used by the Canadian National train. Either because of a breakdown in communications between the short line dispatcher and the Wisconsin & Southern crew, a failure of track signaling equipment or mistakes by the railroad employees, the smaller train had not cleared the intersection when the larger one came through.
The lead engine of the Canadian National train struck a rear rail car of the Wisconsin & Southern train, causing several cars to derail. Fracking sand, diesel fuel and construction materials spilled from the derailed cars and engines, necessitating a small and brief precautionary evacuation of people near the crash site. Environmental and accident cleanup continued into the following week.
Properly scheduling trains that share tracks or cross paths is a constant challenge for railroads -- and a matter of life and death for crew members. Any error can lead to a relatively minor accident like this one, or a fatal incidence such as the deadly rear-end collision between CSX trains that occurred in Mineral Springs, North Carolina (NC), in 2011. Radio equipment, warning signals, lines of communication and chains of authority for making decisions about speeds and positioning must all be in place and operating correctly to prevent injuries and deaths.
As a North Carolina personal injury attorney with special interest in protecting railroad employees' rights to health and safety under laws such as the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), I have seen too many instances when a rail company's negligence or lack of concern for its employees have resulted in irreversible tragedies. While the worst did not happen in Wisconsin, the exact cause of the accident must be identified and resolved as quickly as possible.