The Funeral Train Grows Longer

The scene of the Indiana derailment where clean-up worker Michael Bowling died.

How was work today? If you went to work for the railroads, things might not have been too good. In the last few months, workers have been electrocuted (in New Jersey), drowned (in Nebraska), crushed by heavy equipment (in Indiana), struck by moving trains (Alabama, New Jersey, Minnesota), or otherwise killed in the line of duty. Members of Railroad Workers United have been keeping track of all the rail-related fatalities since Mother’s Day, 2009, when the death of Jared Boehlke left a young widow and child. They have recorded twenty-nine fatalities. Twenty–nine men and women killed in the course of helping trains get from point A to point B.

Railroads are not impoverished. By every measure, the industry players are doing better than in 2009, which itself was quite a profitable year. Let’s not forget that Warren Buffet snatched up the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe line last year, betting that rail will continue to be a money tree for the foreseeable future. Yet in spite of their comfortable financial positions and in spite of the disastrous safety conditions, the railroad companies are moving to further weaken safety on the job by reducing crew size and pushing remote control operation of trains.

I’ve written about this all before here, here, and here. I’ve resisted writing about it through the summer because without the resources for in-depth investigative journalism, I’m not always sure what to say other than this situation is a disgusting disgrace. But some things bear repeating, and I’m repeating this message today because of all these deaths. The list below is courtesy of Railroad Workers United and does not yet include the seven deaths that have occurred since mid-June which I referenced in the first paragraph.

Railroaders Killed since Mother’s Day of 2009

Jared Boehlke
Conductor Jared Boehlke, 33, of Albany, N.Y., was killed May 10, 2009, in a CSX yard accident in Selkirk, N.Y. He is survived by his wife, Heather, three year-old-daughter, mother, father and ten brothers. Jared was a man of strong faith, an avid knife maker, and was extremely devoted to his family and friends.

John Pichalski
May 13, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The 53-year-old (John Pichalski, from Hillsborough, NJ) CSX railroad employee was repairing damage from an earlier accident when he was hit by a truck. 53-yearold CSX worker was killed Monday as he worked to repair damage to warning lights from an accident earlier in the day at the same location.

Jeanice McMillan

June 23, 2009 Jeanice McMillan is the name of the woman who worked as a DC Metro Operator, she died as a result of the DC Metro Crash along with more people. She was only 42 years old.

Dustin Moles
Conductor Dustin Moles, 33, a member of Local 1972, Birmingham, Ala., was killed June 24, 2009, when the Alabama & Tennessee River Railroad train on which he was riding derailed while being switched into a shipper facility. He hired on in 2005. Dustin was a police officer prior to hiring out with the railroad.

Josh Osborn
Andrew Reed
Two workers for the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern (IC&E) Railroad were killed near Bettendorf, Ill., on July 14, 2009. According to preliminary reports from the National Transportation Safety Board, the accident happened after their train hit a misaligned switch. Andrew R. Reed, 27, was working as a conductor at the time of the fatality. Joshua M. Osborn, 27 was working as the locomotive engineer.

Michael Nash
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 Metro officials identified the victim of Sunday’s accident as Michael Nash, 63, of Silver Spring, a track repairman since 1990. Nash was working with 10 to 15 people replacing crossties along the outbound track between the Vienna and Dunn Loring stations along Interstate 66 when a machine called a ballast regulator struck him about 9:50 p.m. Nash was a spotter, whose job is to remove gravel from circuits or boards in the track bed.

John Moore
On September 10, John Moore, 44, was struck by a train between the Braddock Road and National Airport stations. He died four days later. The National Transportation Safety Board was notified of the incident. At this time, Metro has offered little information about the incident. Moore worked with communications equipment, but it is unclear what work he was doing at the time of the accident.

Larry Craig Green
September 23, Hereford, Texas – A worker with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad was killed Wednesday near Hereford. The Deaf Smith County Justice of the Peace’s office says Larry Craig Green was working near the track around 6:30 Wednesday morning when he was hit by a train. The incident happened near the old Caviness meat plant about three miles west of Hereford on highway 60. It is unclear right now how the events transpired. Green was 54 years old.

Kevin Sparks
EAST OAK LANE – November 5, 2009 (WPVI) — A packed commuter train struck and killed a rail worker during the morning rush Thursday, disrupting service for three hours and stranding hundreds of riders on a system already crippled by a transit strike. The man has been identified as Kevin Sparks, 34, of Sharon Hill, Pa. Sparks, a rail inspector, was walking with a flagman on the northbound tracks when he was hit from behind by a southbound train, Maloney said. The train was running on different tracks than normal because of equipment problems with another train.

Samuel W. Lundy
BNSF conductor Samuel W. Lundy, 44, of Minneapolis, was killed Dec. 29 when, during a switching operation, a rail car derailed and pinned him against a building. He is survived by his wife, Jackie, and three children.

Aaron Milhouse
CLARKE COUNTY, Ala. — Aaron Milhouse, 46, died Jan. 14 from injuries suffered as a result of a Norfolk Southern train fire Jan. 12. Milhouse was one of two Norfolk Southern train-crew members who suffered burn injuries in the fire and were taken by helicopter to area hospitals, said Clark County EMA Director Roy Waite.

Jeff Garrard
Sung Oh
Jan 27, 2010 ROCKVILLE, Md. – Metro service is back to normal Wednesday, a day after an accident killed two veteran transit workers. Red Line trains began running between the Shady Grove and Rockville stations around 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, after the National Transportation Safety Board finished its preliminary investigation. Metro officials say Jeffrey Garrard, 49 of Clarksburg and Sung Oh, 68, of Montgomery Village were killed while installing new train control equipment around 1:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Ronald Langlois

CLEVELAND, February 11 —Ron Langlois, 44, was found dead of a gunshot wound outside of his locomotive in Eugene, Ore., on February 6.

Andrew Monheim
March 16, 2010 EAST PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A Union Railroad worker from Plum was killed in a train collision and derailment in North Versailles early Tuesday, authorities said. Initially, crews were unable to locate Andrew Monheim, 54, of Plum, after the two Union Railroad trains collided near U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thompson Works near East Pittsburgh. The medical examiner’s office later confirmed that Monheim was found dead.

Jeff Heitzmann

On Thursday, March 25, Jeff Heitzmann was killed in an accident in Washburn, ND. Heitzmann was working on a train as a conductor. According to initial reports, the accident occurred when an embankment gave way, causing five of the train’s engines to derail. Two of the engines rolled down the bank. Another worker whose name has not been released was injured in the incident. Police are still trying to determine exactly how this accident occurred.

Roberto Ramirez
April 3, 2010 Authorities Saturday publicly identified the Union Pacific railroad employee who was killed when the company pickup he was in was struck by a Metrolink train just east of the San Gabriel River. The truck was apparently sitting sideways on the tracks about 9:25 a.m. March 20 when eastbound Metrolink train 354, speeding down a long straightaway section of track, smashed into it and pushed it about 300 yards, authorities said. His hometown newspaper, the Visalia Times-Delta, said in an obituary that Ramirez had worked for UP for 30 years, and was buried there March 30.

Melinda Carter
RIVERDALE, IL – The woman, who was killed Friday night on April 23, 2010 when a freight train rolled over her in a Riverdale rail yard, has been identified as Melinda Carter, 37, a CSX railroad employee. According to Melinda’s family, she was at work in the yard when a train malfunctioned and rolled over her.

James Knell
April 28, 2010| A veteran MTA track worker was killed on the job this week after coming into contact with a live third rail on an elevated subway line in Queens. James Knell, 45, was doing track repairs in the rain early Monday when he slipped and fell on the rail, which had just been powered up for the morning rush hour, transit officials said.

Greg Kastner
Date: Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 11:40 PM KEARNY, N.J. — A New Jersey Transit worker who shuttled engines in a railroad yard died after he was struck by a wayward locomotive early Monday, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. Greg Kastner, 63, a 7-year employee who worked as a “hostler,” had just finished fueling his engine and was walking back to another locomotive when he was struck around 3:30 a.m. at the Meadows Maintenance Facility yard, NJ Transit officials said today.

Marshall W. Conner
Thursday, June 10, 2010, Hanover County, Virginia. Marshall W. Conner, 54, was walking in a narrow lane alongside a parked train, inspecting its brakes, when he was struck by a northbound train at 10:15 a.m., Hanover sheriff’s Capt. Michael J. Trice said.

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8 Responses to “The Funeral Train Grows Longer”

  1. Sarah Irene Dye Says:

    Wow, Gail, thanks for bringing this to my attention. Will repost.

  2. erstwhile luddite Says:

    Thanks Sarah!

  3. Kimberly Says:

    thanks for posting

    • erstwhile luddite Says:

      Kimberly, are you a relative of the man who died in New Jersey? I am so sorry for your loss. Please know that many of his fellow railroaders are working hard to protect other workers.

  4. PATRICIA Says:

    James Knell was my brot

    • erstwhile luddite Says:

      Please accept my condolences. Too many good people have been lost doing their jobs. I hope your family is doing all right.

  5. Heather Boehlke Says:

    Jared Boehlke was my husband, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for your posting. So many people have suffered – so many lives lost. Jared’s daughter will soon be 5 it is crazy how much time has already past. I see so much of him in our little girl – how much he has missed. I thank you again for taking the time to bring light to this issue. Please keep up the good work!

  6. erstwhile luddite Says:

    Heather, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know you have been working hard to try to keep this from happening to other families. I bet your daughter is an outstanding little human beings, she sounds like she comes from very good people.

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