BNSF Railroad Collision

Investigation Details

What Happened

​​On June 5, 2018, about 2:50 p.m. local time, a westbound BNSF Railway intermodal train, S MEMSCO1 02L, was operating in multiple main track in centralized traffic control territory when it collided with the rear of a slow moving eastbound work train, WNEESGM1 05. The work train was making an eastbound reverse move to drop off an employee before traveling west to exit the main track. The collision occurred on main track 1 at milepost 480.2 in an area known as Crozier Canyon, about 33 miles east of Kingman, Arizona. The collision resulted in the death of one contract (Herzog Railroad Services, Inc.) employee who was traveling on the work train. Another Herzog employee was air lifted to a hospital in Las Vegas with serious injuries.

​The loaded eastbound work train consisted of 29 cars and 2 forward-facing locomotives, was 1,800 feet long, and weighed 3,830 tons. After unloading rail on main track 1, the train headed east to drop off an employee. The work train was traveling up a 1.5 percent grade at about 9 mph on main track 1, approaching an 8° (sharp) curve at Crozier Canyon when the rail unloading machine on the rear of the work train and the lead locomotive of the westbound intermodal train collided.

The westbound intermodal train consisted of one forward-facing locomotive and two rear-facing locomotives at the front of the train and 72 loaded cars, was 6,574 feet long, and weighed 8,186 tons. After assuming the work train was headed west based on radio transmissions, the westbound intermodal train crew decided to proceed past a red restrictive signal at a speed slow enough, but not exceeding 15 mph, to permit stopping short of a train, a car, an obstruction, a stop signal, a derail, or an improperly lined switch. The train traversed a descending 1.5 percent grade reaching a top speed of 15 mph prior to reaching the 8° curve at Crozier Canyon, where tall trees on the inside of the curve impaired visibility. Both trains were operating with positive train control.​​​​

What We Found

​​​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the BNSF Railway train crew of the intermodal train to operate in accordance with restricted speed requirements and stop short of the opposing train. Contributing to the accident was (1) BNSF Railway’s failure to establish sufficient on-track safety and (2) the Federal Railroad Administration’s interpretation of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations​ Part 214 Subpart C that allows work trains to lay rail without using a form of on-track safety.

What We Recommended

​​​​As a result of the investigation, we mad​es two safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration