NTSB issues preliminary report on investigation of railway employee fatality

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
rail bridges
BNSF Railway

On March 3 of this year, a BNSF conductor died in a La Mirada, California rail yard accident.

RT&S reported on the fatality the day it happened. The National Transportation Safety Board issued its preliminary report on the accident on April 1, and here’s what they’re reporting so far:

“The National Transportation Safety Board issued Thursday (April 1) the preliminary report for its ongoing investigation of the March 3, 2021, death of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway conductor in the La Mirada, California, railyard.

“Information in the report is preliminary and subject to change as the investigation progresses, as such, no conclusions about the cause of the accident should be drawn from the report.

“The conductor was riding a boxcar’s ladder and communicating position and distance information as the 48-car train moved through the yard at about 8 mph. The boxcar on which the conductor was riding collided with the side of a stationary locomotive, pinning and killing the conductor. Another conductor riding on a ladder on the opposite side of the same boxcar was uninjured.”

This diagram details the accident sequence in which a BNSF Railway conductor died March 3, 2019. NTSB graphic by Christy Spangler.

“Two NTSB investigators traveled to the accident scene March 3 to gather information and evidence. Future investigative activity will focus on safety rules related to switching operations, temporary close clearances in railyards and the effects of fatigue and medical issues on railroad operating crews.

“Parties to the NTSB’s investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration, the California Public Utilities commission, BNSF Railway, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive engineers and Trainmen.”

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