A train engineer working alone to move a train in a Northeastern Ohio rail yard by remote control lost his life when the train ran over him. The fatal accident occurred in the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway yard in Brewster, OH, on the night of November 6, 222016.
The engineer, identified as Larry Thomas, reportedly lost his balance and fell on the tracks into the path of the moving train just after uncoupling a rail car. Investigators will have to rely on surveillance video while reconstructing the incident because no co-workers were near the engineer when he got killed.
While details remain scarce, this deadly workplace accident appears to highlight two interrelated dangers to railroad employees that my fellow Virginia FELA attorney colleagues and I have called out repeatedly -- one-person crews and the poor design of remote control devices for trains. A person working alone in a locomotive or on the ground beside a moving train cannot rely on extra eyes and assistance when harmful and life-threatening situations arise. The rigs and vests that allow one person to move a train remote are heavy, unbalanced, and cumbersome. Trips and falls happen often while suited up to move a train remotely. And when they do, it is common that no one else is near to render aid.
Our deepest condolences go out to the friends and family of the engineer who died while working in the Brewster rail yard. We urge management and supervisors at Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway to quickly identify and correct any equipment and procedural problems that contributed to causing the man's death.