Fatal Crashes at Road 1013 Prompt Review of Montana Railroad

After three tragic train incidents took place in one year on a heavily trafficked rural roadway near Culbertson, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT) has decided to review the safety of the railroad crossing.

MDOT, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Roosevelt County plan to open a “diagnostic review” after the latest fatal accident involving this route killed a 65-year-old Sidney man.

Recent Train Accidents at Road 1013 Railroad Crossing

On May 29, Rocky Lee Norby, 65, of Sidney, was killed by an Amtrak passenger train while crossing the tracks on his tractor.

The train was likely travelling at about 75 mph when it collided with Norby’s tractor on U.S. Highway 2 near Bainville, according to The Billings Gazette. The crash derailed the train and gave minor injuries to all 64 passengers. Even three crew members were sent to a nearby hospital.

On June 3, Norby’s funeral service filled the entire Richland County fairgrounds. While everyone was welcome to the event, the communities of Bainville and Culbertson were not necessarily surprised that a fatal crash such as this one occurred on this stretch of railway.

The two towns combined make up only a bit more than 1,000 people and have seen three tragic deaths in the same area in the last 10 months.

In August of 2019, two young men who were hauling radioactive waste for Oil Waste Logistics, a Culbertson company, were struck and killed at the railroad crossing on Road 1013.

Bryan Pederson, 18, was driving with passenger Caleb Fell, 21, and did not yield to an oncoming train, according to an accident investigation. Both men died at the scene of the crash.

About a month later another train struck and killed a semi truck driver at a railroad crossing west of Road 1013 on Highway 2.

Moses Godwin, 36, of Dallas, Texas, was driving a semi truck hauling gravel when he made a left-hand turn onto the tracks and was shortly hit by the train right after.

Montana Locals Advocate for New Safety Measures

Unfortunately, some locals can remember the fatal crashes at Road 1013 dating all the way back to 1984. These accidents have left many jarring memories for locals in Bainville and Culberston.

Founder and President of Oil Waste Logistics, Jason LaQua, says that this railroad crossing was set up for failure.

 

He also said, “It’s kind of like a perfect storm of not being safe, and there’s no flashing lights or arms or anything like that.”

The crossing lacks basic safety measures that make it next to impossible to see an oncoming train from either side of the crossing.

Not only is this rural roadway without street lamps or signal lights, trees on both sides of the crossing block views of the tracks while dirt mounds to the south obstruct the line.

There is also a narrow bridge that approaches the crossing at a downward incline. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there is no indication of the crossing other than a crossbuck sign.

With four deaths, a train derailment and other minor accidents, locals are advocating for more safety measures to be implemented at this crossing.

What’s Next?

Last fall of 2019, the residents of Roosevelt County voted to replace and widen the narrow bridge, said County Commissioner Gordon Oelkers.

As locals wait for the bridge project to begin, Oelkers is working with MDOT to do a safety study on the crossing and get crossing arms as well.

Now, Lori Ryan, the public information officer for the Montana Department of Transportation, says that a safety review will begin on the railroad crossing at Road 1013 to see if new safety measures are needed.

LaQua concluded, after two of his employees died in August, “If there were flashing lights and flashing arms, nobody would have died at these intersections.”

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