Overhead view of the accident location. (Source: Google Earth.)

​Overhead view of the accident location. (Source: Google Earth.)​

Ohio Central Railroad Employee Fatality

What Happened

​​​​​​​This information is preliminary and subject to change. ​Release date: 7 February 2024​

On January 15, 2024, about 5:30 a.m., an Ohio Central Railroad signal maintainer was found deceased by the crew of Wheeling & Lake Erie freight train 218-15 on the main track of the Columbus and Ohio River Railroad east of the New Rumley Road highway-railroad grade crossing (grade crossing) near Jewett, Ohio. [1] The train’s engineer saw the signal maintainer lying motionless between the rails and initiated a full service braking application. The train overran the signal maintainer before stopping but did not strike him. The conductor exited the train and walked back to find the signal maintainer under the fifth and sixth railcars. (See figure.) The train did not derail and the crew was not injured. Visibility conditions when the crew found the signal maintainer were dark; the temperature was 9°F with no precipitation. During interviews with National Transportation Safety Board investigators, the crew reported seeing light fog in the area.

​Train 218-15 was composed of 5 head end locomotives and 31 mixed freight railcars. The crew consisted of an engineer and a conductor. The train was traveling eastbound from Brewster, Ohio, to Hopedale, Ohio.

About 4:19 p.m. on January 14, 2024, an operations coordinator at the American Rail Dispatching Center dispatched the signal maintainer to troubleshoot a malfunctioning grade crossing at New Rumley Road. [2] This was the signal maintainer’s last known communication with another employee. The signal maintainer arrived at the location in a company vehicle, began troubleshooting, and made temporary repairs about 1,600 feet east of the grade crossing. Train 218-15 was the first train to go through the grade crossing at New Rumley Road after the signal maintainer was dispatched. The signal maintainer was found deceased by the train crew near the repairs.

While on scene, National Transportation Safety Board investigators examined track and signal infrastructure, conducted sight distance observations, obtained evidence from the signal maintainer’s company vehicle, reviewed data from locomotive event recorders and radio communications, and completed interviews.

​The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation is ongoing. Future investigative activities will focus on Genesee & Wyoming’s dispatch procedures, safety practices, and drug and alcohol programs for maintenance employees.

Parties to the investigation include:

  • ​the Federal Railroad Administration, 
  • Genesee & Wyoming, 
  • Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad, and 
  • the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

​[1] ​(a) All times in this report are local. (b) The Columbus and Ohio River Railroad is owned by Genesee & Wyoming Inc. as part of the Ohio Central Railroad System.
[2]​ The American Rail Dispatching Center is a Genesee & Wyoming central dispatching center located in St. Albans, Vermont.