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Accident Report Detail

​Collision of Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Freight Train and 19 Stationary Railcars

Executive Summary

On July 14, 2009, about 2:08 a.m., central daylight time, southbound Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad freight train B61-13, went into Bettendorf Yard in Bettendorf, Iowa, due to a misaligned switch and struck 19 stationary railcars. The impact fatally injured the locomotive engineer and the conductor. There were no wayside signals or other devices to convey the position of the hand-operated switch on the main track leading into the north yard sufficiently in advance to allow the approaching train to stop. The train was moving at the authorized speed of 25 mph and was operating under valid track warrant authority. Track warrants are authorizations issued by a dispatcher for a train to occupy a certain segment of track for a certain period of time. Track warrant authority is obtained and released through communication between train crews and the dispatcher.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the BNSF Railway local train RCHI4274-13I crew releasing track warrant authority before returning the north yard hand-operated switch to the correct position. Contributing to the accident was the dispatcher for the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad granting track warrant authority to Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad train B61-13 without holding a job briefing, which would confirm the accurate positions of all applicable main track switches. Also contributing to the accident was a hand-operated switch position reflector target that could not be observed by the crew of train B61-13 at a sufficient distance to stop the train and avoid the accident.

Accident Location: Bettendorf , IA    
Accident Date: 7/14/2009
Accident ID: DCA09FR009

Date Adopted: 4/30/2012
NTSB Number: RAR-12-03-SUM
NTIS Number: PB2012-916303

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