In the Line of Duty

Wayne A. Connor Sr.

BLE Member Wayne A. Connor Sr., 56, died of injuries sustained in a highway-rail grade crossing collision near East Feliciana Parish, La., on the morning of June 26.

Eight other people were injured in the collision, which happened at 10:45 a.m. A loaded log truck slammed into Connor's Canadian National-Illinois Central locomotive, causing the train's forward locomotive to derail and run into a trackside embankment. Brother Connor was thrown from the cab. He died shortly before 7 p.m. at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, officials said.

Brother Connor was recently elected chairman of the BLE's Louisiana State Legislative Board. He also served as president of Division 914 (Baton Rouge, La.). The fatal collision happened exactly one week after his 56th birthday. He first joined the BLE on Jan. 1, 1979.

He is survived by his wife, Fern Roshto Connor; two sons and daughters-in-law; a daughter; three step-children; and seven grandchildren.

Brother Connor is the first BLE member to be killed in the line of duty this year. In the past 11 years, 34 BLE members have been killed in on-the-job accidents, including 14 in the past three years.

The impact of the collision pushed the log truck into a car filled with five people, all of whom suffered moderate and minor injuries.

Investigators reviewed footage from a video camera mounted inside Connor's locomotive. The footage showed that warning lights for traffic were working at the time of the collision.

A security camera at a plant entrance shows northbound traffic stopping for a train approaching a nearby railroad crossing moments before the southbound log truck slammed into Connor's locomotive.

Ron Hynes, a railroad accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the security camera supports other evidence that shows the warning lights and bells were working immediately before the collision.

The camera's tape also shows that the train's headlights and ditch lights were turned on as the locomotive approached the crossing.

The truck driver, Ronald Dupont, 42, of Simmesport, La., was pinned in the demolished cab of his truck for about two hours.

The train's brakeman, Ronald Graves, 52, of Zachary, La., was treated and released from Lane Memorial Hospital, while the conductor, Charlie Price, 59, of Pride, La., was hospitalized with moderate injuries at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, officials said.

The accident remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Firefighters from East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes responded to calls for assistance to treat the injured and free the truck driver.

Dupont was conscious throughout the ordeal.

Smoke began pouring from under the truck, but truck drivers who came upon the scene used their fire extinguishers to prevent flames from enveloping the wreckage.

They said a crewman on the locomotive had been thrown from the right side of the train through a window on the left side, while another crewman was hanging out of the same window.

(The Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper contributed to this report.)



2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers