October 31, 2014

Memorials to UTU members killed on the job in 2011

Patricia Hyatt
UTU Local 199 (Creston, Iowa) Vice Local Chairperson Patricia Hyatt, 48, was killed April 17 near McPherson when her eastbound freight train pulling 130 loaded coal hoppers collided with the rear of a second BNSF train. The lead locomotive of the coal train was engulfed in fire. Hyatt, daughter of Evan Aubrey Shiver and Christine (Elliott) Shiver, was born Feb. 25, 1963, in Fort Ord, Calif. She graduated from Crystal River High School in Crystal River, Fla. She went on to study for two years in college and served six years in the U.S. Army. The engineer of the train on which Hyatt was working was also killed.

Phillip Crawford
CSX conductor Phillip E. Crawford Jr., 33, was killed early May 24 in a rear-end collision involving two CSX freight trains in Mineral Springs, N.C. He was a member of UTU Local 970, Abbeville, S.C. and had signed on with CSX in October 2005. A CSX spokesperson said that the rear-end collision occurred on northbound tracks and involved one train enroute to Hamlet, N.C., from New Orleans, and another enroute to Charlotte from southern Georgia.

Laurette Lee
Amtrak conductor Laurette Lee, 68, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., was killed June 24 when a tractor-trailer combination rammed the side of a double-deck passenger car of Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr at a highway-rail grade crossing. Lee, a mother of three, was from a railroad family. Her grandfather and great-grandfather were rails, her brother is an Amtrak dispatcher and her nephew, Ben Rankin, is an Amtrak conductor and member of UTU Local 1732 (San Jose, Calif.). Lee began her railroad career in 1988 as a baggage handler and later was promoted to conductor. She was a member of UTU Local 166 at Salt Lake City, Utah.

Andres Tapia Jr.
Andres Tapia, 34, a Belt Railway of Chicago switchman and member of UTU Local 1597 (Chicago) with three years’ service was crushed to death between two rail cars in a hump yard in Chicago just after midnight July 25. Tapia, who was working a two-person remote control assignment, reportedly was found between the cars by fellow workers after his remote control device broadcast an automatic “man down” alert. Tapia is survived by his wife, Sonia, and children Andres III and Tristan.

Deborah Ann Beeler
BNSF employee and UTU member Deborah Ann Beeler was killed in a Tulsa, Okla., yard accident Aug. 4 when a vehicle in which she was riding was struck by a flatcar during a hump operation, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Deborah Ann Beeler, 39, of Claremore, was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple injuries. Beeler is survived by her husband, Michael, and sons Tyler, 11, and Wyatt, 9. She was a member of UTU Local 1289 since July 2005.

Russell DeCeck
Long Island Rail Road car inspector Russell DeCeck, 48, a member of Local 722, Babylon, N.Y., was killed Aug. 14, when he reportedly came in contact with the third rail while working at the carrier’s Babylon yard in West Islip, N.Y. DeCeck, of Coram, N.Y., had 28 years of service. He joined the UTU in 1989.

Thomas F. Bleyenberg
BNSF Railway yard worker, Thomas F. Bleyenberg, a member of UTU Local 5, Kansas City, Mo., was killed Aug. 15 when he became trapped between two rail cars at the carrier’s Argentine Yard in Kansas City, Kan. He was working a two-person remote control assignment. He had been a UTU member since 1994. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Nita, and his children, Matthew and Amanda.

Blaine Mack
BNSF conductor and UTU member, Blaine Mack, was killed Aug. 19 when the crew van in which he was riding was involved in a two-vehicle collision on Highway 2 just east of Frazer, Mont. Mack, 56, was a member of UTU Local 1059 (Minot, N.D.), with 36 years of service. He lived in Minot.

Dennis Hemme
CSX conductor Dennis A. Hemme, 59, was crushed to death near Botkins, Ohio, Sept. 8 during a mainline shove of a stalled train. Botkins is some 110 miles north of Cincinnati. Hemme, with some six years of service, was a member of UTU Local 14 (Cincinnati) and is survived by his wife and three children.

Stacy Rieger
Stacy Rieger, 41, a BNSF conductor and a member of Local 1957 at Silsbee, Texas, was killed Dec. 18 when his head reportedly struck a bridge beam. It appears he was leaning over the railing of his moving locomotive’s side running board in an attempt to check the fuel level in a fuel-tank sight glass. After striking his head, Rieger tumbled from the locomotive down a 48-foot embankment into the Navasota River. The nighttime accident occurred some 80 miles northwest of Houston. He is survived by his wife, Ann, four daughters and a stepdaughter.