November 28, 2014

Conductor, engineer killed in Mont. crew-van accident

FRAZER, Mont. — A BNSF conductor and UTU member, along with a BNSF engineer, were killed late Friday night, Aug. 19, when the crew van in which they were riding was involved in a two-vehicle collision on Highway 2 just east of here in eastern Montana.

This was the eighth UTU member fatality in 2011, and the fifth since July 25.

BNSF identified the dead as conductor Blaine Mack, 56, a member of UTU Local 1059 (Minot, N.D.), with 36 years’ service, and engineer Todd Burckhard, 35, with six years’ service. Both resided in Minot. Burckhard previously was a UTU member.

Frazer is some 110 miles west of Williston, N.D., and about 20 miles west of Wolf Point, Mont.

The Billings Gazette reports the westbound Chevrolet Suburban crew van in which Mack and Burckhard were riding collided with an eastbound Dodge pickup that crossed into the westbound lane. The newspaper, quoting the Montana Highway Patrol, reported the Chevrolet crew van “swerved into the eastbound lane to avoid a collision, but the Dodge’s driver corrected it back into the [eastbound] lane at the last moment. The Dodge then crashed into the Chevrolet’s passenger side.”

The unidentified drivers of the Coach America-owned crew van and the pickup were hospitalized with unspecified injuries. The accident is under investigation by the Montana Highway Patrol.

The Coach America crew-van driver reportedly had picked up Mack and Burckhard at Oswego, Mont., at BNSF milepost 251.8, and was transporting them to their away-from-home terminal at Glasgow, Mont.

In March, in Kelso, Wash., a conductor trainee and engineer, along with a Coach America crew-van driver were killed when the van was struck by a BNSF freight train at a private crossing. The conductor trainee, Chris Loehr, had not yet joined the UTU. Seriously injured in that accident was UTU conductor and Local 324 member and trustee Dwight L. Hauck, 51, of Auburn, Wash.

This eighth UTU-member fatality in 2011 equals the total number of UTU members killed in each of the two previous years.