A BNSF worker lost his life in an on-the-job accident at a Minneapolis rail yard on the morning of May 25, 2015. According to an official statement from the freight railroad, the rail employee got crushed by track materials knocked loose from a flatbed rail car by a passing locomotive. The cause of the collision was not immediately clear.
The yard, located near the intersection of Harrison and Spring streets in the northeastern section of the city, services a commercial center of warehouses and small manufacturing plants. A crew of eight was at the scene of the fatal train crash, but no other workers appear to have suffered injuries.
As a Virginia-based personal injury and wrongful death attorney who has helped many victims of CSX, Norfolk Southern and other railroad accidents, I know that industrial rail yards can be particularly dangerous places for rail crews. Tight spaces, heavy traffic, lack of adequate personnel to serve as spotters, and the presence of people who are not specifically trained to work on and around trains can all create risky situations. An investigation lasting weeks or months may be needed to determine exactly what went wrong to put the rail load with track materials in the path of the approaching locomotive and also why the locomotive could not stop or switch tracks in time to avoid the deadly collision.
When answers do emerge, that information must be used to improve practices and procedures so similar workplace deaths do not occur in the future. Safety can always be increased, and that must be a primary goal for both rail corporations and railroad employees.