Train fatals on the rise: NTSB

A TREND of deaths involving trains, including two men killed in the past week in incidents with coal trains, is no fluke, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. An NTSB official has revealed that the number of non-passenger train fatalities is rising.
Train fatals on the rise: NTSB Train fatals on the rise: NTSB Train fatals on the rise: NTSB Train fatals on the rise: NTSB Train fatals on the rise: NTSB


Donna Schmidt

NTSB Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations director Robert Hall said in the agency’s Safety Compass blog that deaths and injuries in incidents on railroad tracks rose 8% in 2012 to 843 from 781 in 2011.

The data is from the NSTB’s Office of Safety Analysis.

“The casualty rate for 2013 is higher still,” he said, reporting that there have been 356 accidents with fatalities or injuries through May.

Hall refers in the blog to the first anniversary of another coal train incident that killed two young women on August 20 2012 in Ellicott City, Maryland.

The college students, he said, had walked into the area to sit on the railroad bridge and were apparently texting and chatting just before a loaded CSX coal train left the tracks on the overpass.

“While their intent seems innocent, their actions broke the law, since railroad tracks are private property,” Hall said.

“It also placed them in grave danger. When the CSX train derailed, some of its coal spilled over the bridge, killing both of them.”

He said NTSB was continuing to investigate the accident because it exemplified the growing problem of non-passenger train fatalities.

Hall also stressed safety by all when working and traveling near rail lines.

“… I encourage … [everyone] to raise their own awareness of this issue and educate everyone about the dangers of being around railroad tracks,” he said.

Randall Williams, 26, was killed near Michigan City, Indiana, last weekend after being crushed by a loaded South Shore Freight train after officials believed he fell between the cars.

The body of Williams, who was thought to have been a train jumper that rode the line from Gary to Michigan City, was found at the Northern Indiana Public Service Company coal-fired generating station early August 18.

Two days later, a still-unidentified man was killed in northwest Washington by a loaded Burlington Northern Santa Fe coal train traveling northbound to British Columbia, Canada.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas confirmed the incident occurred August 19 near Tacoma in an area of the well-traveled line that was not easily accessible to pedestrians.

Melonas said the train’s staff saw the man on the track and applied the emergency brake but could not avoid hitting him.

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