Pedestrian's leg severed in remote control accident

A pedestrian's right leg was amputated at mid-thigh as he became trapped climbing between cars of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train in Galesburg, Ill. The train was being operated by remote control at the time of the accident on August 28.

The victim, Anthony Jones, is a resident of an extended care facility for people with disabilities in the Galesburg area, according to Eric Holland, an attorney with the law firm Rathmann & Holland, LLC.

According to police reports obtained by the BLE, officers found the victim's right leg 50 feet to the south of where his body finally came to a rest. Police also discovered toes from his right foot 75 feet north of the body.

Witnesses said the freight train had come to a halt and blocked the intersection of Mulberry and Chambers Streets in Galesburg. Jones climbed between the cars but, apparently, part of his clothing became snagged on the train and he could not free himself. According to police reports, a witness saw Jones running between the cars as the train was backing up. The witness then said Jones was pulled under the train at least twice before it came to a halt.

The train was being operated by two remote control operators at the time of the accident. The train was 5,476 feet long and consisted of 104 cars. The front remote control operator moved the train north out of the yard and then turned over control to the rear remote control operator.

After turning over control of the train's south movement to rear operator, the front operator was flagged down by a pedestrian and told of the man trapped between the cars. The train was then stopped and they noticed the victim alongside the tracks.

Police reports estimate that Jones became trapped where the track crossed Chambers Street. His body was found 535 feet from this reference point, while his severed right leg was found an additional 50 feet south of the body.

The remote control was clearly a contributing factor in the accident, Holland said.

Holland said a locomotive engineer behind the throttle would have sounded the train's horn before backing up into the yard, which may have given the victim enough of a warning to get away from the train before the movement started.

According to his records, Holland said BNSF had been warned about pedestrians climbing through stopped trains at that grade crossing several times in the past.

Holland finally noted the fact that the remote control train was moving through a public highway-rail grade crossing at the time of the accident, which contradicts management claims that remote technology would be confined to yard areas only.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers has conducted a series of informational demonstrations throughout the United States this summer in an effort to draw public attention to possible dangers associated with the use of remote control locomotives operated by unqualified personnel.


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers