Two BNSF employees died after being struck by one of their company's freight trains as they worked on tracks just north of Edgemont, South Dakota (SD). The fatal on-the-job accident happened near an overpass for U.S. 18 on the morning of January 17, 2017.
No details on why the deadly train collision in the southwest corner of South Dakota happened were available on the day of the tragic incident. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board have taken over the investigation, and BNSF executives have pledge full cooperation.
Working on and around railroad tracks while a train is nearby is always dangerous. Numerous safety mechanism, communications protocols and procedural rules are supposed to be in place to protect the physical health and lives of brakemen, engineers, trackmen and laborers. A malfunction of any mechanical part, a breakdown in the exchange of information or lack of adequate training and supervision to ensure every rail employer does his or her part to guarantee safety can set the stage for disabling injuries and needless deaths.
The federal investigators may take several months to issue even a preliminary report on what went wrong and resulted in this multiple loss of life. If that report indicates that BNSF or its officers violated any standard or statutory requirements, the families of the deceased railroad employees would have strong grounds for filing wrongful death claims under the Federal Employers Liability Act.
FELA makes a railroad completely responsible for any work-related accident that results in injuries or death when any well-defined safety rule is violated. Succeeding with a FELA claim, however, can be difficult because rail corporations usually try very hard to convince a judge or jury that its employee bears sole responsibility for causing the accident. Working with a committed and experienced FELA attorney is often key to holding a railroad accountable for failing to protect a worker.