JEWETT, Ohio – NTSB investigators have begun conducting observations and interviews regarding the fatality of a Ohio Central Railroad signal maintainer.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released preliminary information regarding an Ohio Central Railroad (owned by Genesee & Wyoming) employee fatality. On January 15, 2024, a signal maintainer for Ohio Central Railroad was found deceased by a Wheeling & Lake Erie freight train crew at around 5:30 a.m. on “the main track of the Columbus and Ohio River Railroad east of the New Rumley Road highway-railroad grade crossing.” As part of their observations, NTSB investigators assessed track and signal infrastructure, reviewed data from locomotive event recorders, completed interviews, obtained evidence from the signal maintainer’s work vehicle, and conducted sight distance observations.
According to the report, the train’s engineer saw the signal maintainer lying between the rails and started a full-service braking application. Before stopping, the train overran the signal maintainer but did not strike him. The train did not derail, and no crew member was injured. When the conductor walked back, he found the signal maintainer under the fifth and sixth railcars. When NTSB investigators came, they found the visibility conditions to be dark with a temperature of 9 degrees Fahrenheit along with “light fog in the area.”
Train 218-15 had 5 head end locomotives and 31 mixed freight railcars and a crew of an engineer and a conductor. Around 4:19 on January 14th, NTSB says an operations coordinator at the American Rail Dispatching Center dispatched the signal maintainer to troubleshoot a malfunctioning grade crossing at New Rumley Road. According to the report, this was the last known communication between the signal maintainer and another employee. From the preliminary investigation, the signal maintainer arrived at the location and had begun making temporary repairs around 1,600 feet east of the grade crossing. Train 218-15 was the first train to go through the area after the signal maintainer was dispatched.
This investigation is ongoing, and investigators will turn their focus on Genesee & Wyoming’s dispatch procedures as well as safety practices and drug and alcohol programs.