Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen member killed in the line-of-duty breaks the hearts of many of us—family, friends and co-workers. The death of a fellow member spurs the minds and souls of every BLET member to help prevent another Brother or Sister from a needless death on the rails.
The BLET members below are constant reminders and tragic realities that our union’s work may never be finished. Nevertheless, if we do not continually fight to gain rail safety improvements for employees and the public, then these brave individuals will have sacrificed their lives without the full and proper respect that is their due.
We, the 55,000 members, officers and employees of the BLET, hereby salute and forever memorialize these members who gave their lives while faithfully performing their duties on the job. By their deaths and our sincere desire to understand and eliminate the causes, we pray that we may keep other loved ones from being added to this memorial.
The BLET vows never to forget—the BLET vows never to give up the fight.
I will find a way or make one.
—Hannibal, 217 B.C.
To incude additional information to any memorial, please contact John Bentley at (216) 241-2630, ext. 248 or email@example.com.
MEMORIALS OF ENGINEERS KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY SINCE May, 1989
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, August 10 — Brother Ryan M. Jones, a member of BLET Division 103 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, passed away while on duty on July 28, 2022. He was 33 years old.
Brother Jones hired out with the Union Pacific Railroad in July of 2014 as a conductor out of Green River, Wyoming, until he had adequate seniority to work at Cheyenne. He was promoted to locomotive engineer in August 2018. Brother Jones had recently joined the BLET and was excited and proud about his new membership.
On the evening of July 28, 2022, Brother Jones had just finished untying a coal train at Hanna, Wyoming, when he suffered a major cardiac event. He is survived by his father, Michael, his sister, Jessica (Jones) Toman, her husband Christopher Toman, and their infant son, Decker, who was the joy of Ryan’s life.
Prior to his railroad career, Brother Jones received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Hotel and Resort Management from Metropolitan State University, and worked for Marriott in Denver for several years. In his free time, Brother Jones enjoyed fishing and exploring the mountains of Colorado, especially in his “hometown” of Marble, Colorado. Coworkers will remember Brother Jones for his generosity, his sense of humor, and his frequent smile.
A celebration of life will be held on Friday, August 12, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. at the Howe Mortuary Chapel located at 439 Coffman Street, Longmont, Colorado. A reception will follow at Sandstone Park in Longmont.
“On behalf of the BLET National Division, and all men and women of our Brotherhood, I extend deepest condolences to the family and friends of Brother Jones,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, July 29 — Brother Keith W. Bass, a member of BLET Division 48 in St. Louis, Missouri, died on July 27 from injuries sustained in a crew van accident on July 26. He was 46 years old.
A Union Pacific locomotive engineer, Brother Bass hired out in January of 2006 and earned promotion to locomotive engineer in February of 2008. He joined the BLET in June 2014.
Brother Bass and SMART-TD Members Matt Nichols and Zach Brannon were being transported back to Dupo, Illinois from Washington, Missouri, when the accident happened after 9 p.m. on July 26. Brother Bass passed away at around 7 a.m. the following morning from his injuries. Brothers Nichols and Brannon are recovering.
Brother Bass was a veteran of the United States Navy. He was an active and involved BLET member, and was a participant in the BLET’s recent Town Hall meeting in St. Louis on May 11. Brother Bass is survived by his wife Amber and two children — Keeton, a college sophomore, and Delaney, a high school junior. Amber shared that Keith always had a smile on his face, always had a joke ready, and always had a story to share.
The family will host a Celebration of Life on Friday, August 5, from 2:00-5:00 p.m. at the Mahn Funeral Home, DeSoto Office (900 North Main St., DeSoto, MO, 63020, phone: 636-586-2288). He will be buried with military honors immediately after the celebration.
BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said: “Brother Keith Bass was a dedicated and professional locomotive engineer who will be missed by all who knew him. On behalf of all men and women of the BLET, I extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Brother Bass.”
Brother Bruce A. Dominique Jr., a member of BLET Division 219 in Shreveport, Louisiana, was killed in a railroad accident on September 6, 2019. He was 36 years old.
According to media reports, Brother Dominique was severely injured when an 18-wheeler collided with his train at a grade crossing on West 70th Street at Kennedy Drive in Shreveport. He was taken to Ochsner LSU Health hospital where he died at 4:25 p.m. The National Transportation Safety Board did not investigate this fatal accident.
Employed by the Union Pacific Railroad, Brother Dominique hired out as a trainman with UP on December 31, 2012, and earned promotion to locomotive engineer on June 24, 2018. He joined the Brotherhood on February 1, 2019.
Brother Michael Kempf, a member of BLET Division 35 in Jacksonville, Fla., was killed when his Amtrak train collided with a CSX train tied down in a siding near Columbia, S.C., on February 4, 2018. Brother Kempf was 54 years old. Also killed in the crash was 36-year-old conductor Michael Cella. In addition to the two fatalities, 116 people were injured when Amtrak train 91 entered a siding at Cayce, S.C., and struck a stationary CSX train.
Employed by Amtrak, Brother Kempf first joined the BLET on February 1, 2014. He had worked at Amtrak and also at CSX over the years. Prior to his railroad career, Brother Kempf spent 20 years in the U.S. Army serving as a tank commander. He was stationed in Panama and South Korea, among other locations.
In its preliminary investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that the switch leading to the siding was improperly aligned, diverting the Amtrak train from the mainline to the siding.
Brother Kempf is survived by his wife and three children. He enjoyed riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Brother Larry G. Thomas, a member of Division 292 in Beach City, Ohio, was killed in a yard switching accident on November 6, 2016. He was 37 years old.
An employee of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad (WLE), Brother Thomas hired out as a trainman in October of 2012 and earned promotion to locomotive engineer a short time later. He joined the Brotherhood effective February 1, 2013. According to media reports, Brother Thomas was operating a locomotive by remote control at the WLE yard in Brewster, Ohio, at the time of his death.
A veteran of the United States Army, Brother Thomas was an avid motorcycle and car enthusiast. He is survived by his wife Stephanie and three children: Tyler, 9, William, 6, and Alexis, 5. He is also survived by his mother, Darlene; a sister, Tabatha; two nieces; several in-laws; and numerous friends and coworkers in his extended railroad family.
Three crew members were killed and one injured after two BNSF trains collided head-on near Panhandle, Texas, on June 28, 2016.
Killed were Cody R. Owens, 52, and Lara G. Taylor, 44, both members of BLET Division 299 in Amarillo, Texas, along with K.P. Smith Jr., a member of SMART-TD Local 1313.
A large fireball engulfed the train and portions of the town of Panhandle, Texas, were evacuated.
Brother Owens had been a BLET member since December 1, 2005 and Sister Taylor since March 1, 2010.
Brother George A. Lewkuc of BLET Division 683 (Chicago) died from injuries sustained while walking on bad footing in a Union Pacific yard in Northlake, Ill., known as Proviso Yard. He hit his head on a rail and fractured his neck. Brother Lewkuc was transported to a local hospital but never recovered from his injuries, passing away on May 3, 2016.
A Union Pacific locomotive engineer, Brother Lewkuc had been a member of the Brotherhood since December 1, 2010.
BLET member Jeffrey A. Harsh, a member of BLET Division 882 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was killed in a railroad accident on March 26, 2016. Brother Harsh was 43 years old.
Employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway, Brother Harsh normally worked as an engineer out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but had been cut back and was receiving familiarization training in a new area. According to media reports, he was crossing tracks when a train clipped him, knocking him to the ground. He was killed early on March 26 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He joined the Brotherhood effective March 1, 1998, and is a former President of BLET Division 882 in Milwaukee.
He is survived by parents Sandra and Peter Harsh; sisters Laura and Liana; close friends Kevin A. Williams and Jake Weber; and countless other friends, relatives, and co-workers in his close-knit railroad family.
Brother Alexander T. Sassman, 51, was killed in an on-duty in an on-duty motor vehicle accident near Fairfield, Calif., on March 16, 2015. He was one of two railroad employees who were in the taxicab being transported from their train to their off-duty location when the accident occurred.
According to media reports, the taxi was a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria that was traveling at an estimated speed of 60 to 65 mph northbound on I-680 just after 1 a.m. on March 16 when the driver lost control. The vehicle went airborne and overturned, rolling off the side of the highway and landing on a road that runs parallel to the freeway.
Brother Sassman was pronounced dead at the scene. The cab’s second passenger, a conductor, survived but suffered major injuries. The cab driver also survived. The taxi was transporting the two Union Pacific employees from San Jose to Roseville.
Brother Sassman is survived by his wife and three sons. He hired out with the Union Pacific on June 12, 2004, and joined BLET Division 692 (Tracy, Calif.) effective February 1, 2006.
Brother Glenn W. Steele, 62, was working as a locomotive engineer for Metrolink when his train collided with a heavy-duty pickup truck that had been abandoned on the tracks near Oxnard, Calif., on February 24, 2015. He passed away on March 3, 2015.
A member of BLET Division 20 (Los Angeles), Brother Steele had been a BLET member for nearly 42 years, first joining the Brotherhood effective October 1, 1973.
He is survived by his wife, three children, and one grandchild.
Brother Chance J. Gober, 41, was a member of BLET Division 182 in North Little Rock, Ark.
He was one of two train crew members killed when two Union Pacific trains collided head on near the town of Hoxie, Ark., on August 17, 2014.
Brother Dan J. Hall, President of BLET Division 592 (Dalhart, Texas), was killed in the line of duty on June 24, 2012.
Hall, 56, was one of three railroaders killed when two Union Pacific trains collided head-on near the town of Goodwell, Okla. The others were BLET Member John S. Hall (not related) and UTU member Brian L. Stone.
Brother Hall hired out in 1994 and joined the BLET on January 29, 1999. He is survived by his mother and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Brother John S. Hall, a member of BLET Division 592 (Dalhart, Texas), was killed in the line of duty on June 24, 2012.
Hall, 49, was one of three railroaders killed when two Union Pacific trains collided head-on near the town of Goodwell, Okla. The others were Dan J. Hall, President of BLET Division 592, and Brian L. Stone, a UTU conductor. The two Halls are not related.
Brother Hall hired out in 1995 and joined the BLET on January 29, 1999. He is survived by his wife, Beverly, daughter Breanna, and son Johnathon.
BLET member Todd Burckhard, 35, was killed in the line of duty on August 19, 2011 when the crew van he was riding in was involved in a collision near Frazer, Mont.
Brother Burckhard was a BNSF locomotive engineer and member of BLET Division 695 in Minot, N.D. He first joined the Brotherhood on November 1, 2010. He had about seven years of railroad experience.
Also killed in the accident was BNSF conductor Blaine Mack, 56, who had more than 36 years of service with the railroad.
The crew van driver, a contractor, was hospitalized for minor injuries. The crew van was traveling westbound on Highway 2 when it was struck by an eastbound pickup truck operating in the westbound lane of traffic.
Brother Burckhard is survived by his wife, Corrie; children Marty and Mattson; parents David and Peggy Burckhard; grandparents; and several brothers and sisters.
BLET member James Gregory Hadden was one of two crew members killed in the line of duty in Mineral Springs, N.C., on May 24, 2011.
A CSX locomotive engineer, Brother Hadden just 35 years old. He was a member of BLET Division 498 in Abbeville, S.C. He joined the Brotherhood on March 1, 2003.
Also killed was conductor Phillip Crawford, 33, a five year employee with CSX. Brother Hadden was a 10-year CSX veteran. The two men were killed when their train rear-ended another, derailing multiple cars and causing a fire that forced the evacuation of several homes.
Veteran BLET member Christopher L. Carter, 57, drowned on his way to work on May 1, 2011, when his car was swept away by swiftly rising floodwaters in Mayflower, Ark.
Brother Carter was a member of BLET Division 858 in Pine Bluff, Ark. A Union Pacific engineer, Brother Carter had been a BLET member for more than 36 years, first joining the Brotherhood on February 1, 1975.
According to Division 858 Local Chairman Jay Callaway, Brother Carter was on his way to work for the Union Pacific Railroad when the accident happened. It is believed his Ford Explorer hydroplaned in rapidly rising flash flood waters, and his vehicle came to rest in a ditch to the side of the road. Due to the torrential rains that came through the area, water levels rose so quickly that when first responders arrived, Carter vehicle was completely submerged.
Brother Tom Anderson, President of BLET Division 642, was one of two rail workers killed in the line of duty on April 17, 2011, in a rear-end collision involving two BNSF Railway freight trains in McPherson, Iowa.
According to preliminary reports from the NTSB, a BNSF freight train collided with a BNSF maintenance train. Two locomotives and multiple cars derailed as a result of the accident. Brother Anderson, 48, joined the BLET on January 1, 2000.
Brother Thomas J. Kenny of BLET Division 238 (Tacoma, Wash.) was one of three people killed when an off duty crew transport vehicle was struck by a BNSF freight train near Longview, Wash., on March 23, 2011. A fourth crew member was left in critical condition.
Brother Kenny, 58, was a 22-year veteran of BNSF. He first joined the BLET on May 1, 1994.
The three train crew members were taking the transport vehicle to a Vancouver hotel after their tour of duty on Wednesday (March 23). The vehicle was at a private crossing when it was struck by the BNSF freight train. The crossing does not have lighted signals but is equipped with crossing signs and stop signs.
The vehicle landed at the bottom of a 25-foot embankment, more than 50 feet from the crossing.
Stanley L. Watts, Secretary-Treasurer of BLET Division 354 (Kankakee, Ill.), was killed in the line of duty on February 8, 2011, following a switching accident at a Norfolk Southern yard in Kankakee, Ill.
Brother Watts, 43, has been a member of the BLET since February 1, 2006. He was a Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer who was set back working as a conductor at the time of the accident. He is survived by his wife Sara and sons Zachary and Andrew.
He was working as part of a conventional switching crew consisting of an engineer, conductor and conductor-in-training, and had gone on duty at 6:00 a.m.
Brother Watts was born Jan. 1, 1968, in Chicago. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving from 1986-1990. He coached youth football and was active with his sons’ sports. He enjoyed camping and was an avid Bears fan. He loved spending time with his family.
Darrell Amerson, a member of BLET Division 230, was killed in the line of duty on July 2, 2010, following an accident in a Norfolk Southern yard in Meridian, Miss. Brother Amerson, 42, joined the BLET on June 1, 2008.
According to Division 230 Local Chairman Brian Glebe, the accident occurred around 10:30 p.m. in the Meridian rail yard. Brother Amerson suffered severe trauma to his leg and passed away at Rush Foundation Hospital around 1:30 a.m. on July 2 due to complications from his injury.
Brother Amerson had worked for Norfolk Southern for three and a half year. He is survived by his wife, Angela.
Brother Gregory G. Kastner, a veteran NJ Transit hostler, had just finished fueling his engine and was walking back to another locomotive when he was struck around 3:30 a.m. on May 31, 2010 at NJ Transit Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny, N.J.
Tragically, Brother Kastner, 63, was just 20 days from retirement when the fatality occurred. According to his friend and Brother Fred Mattison of Division 373, Brother Kastner chose not to retire as soon as he was eligible. Instead, the devoted father and husband decided to continue working a few extra years to provide for his family. He and his wife, Grace, were looking forward to retirement and had just purchased a retirement home in Florida.
Brother Kastner was a member of BLET Division 272 in Dover, N.J., and he joined the Brotherhood on April 2, 2004.
He is survived by his wife, Grace (Moran) Kastner, his three children, Cristin Farney and her husband, Steven, Kimberly McCloskey and her husband, William, and Ryan Kastner, as well as his granddaughter, Micaela Kastner.
BLET member Andrew Monheim was killed in the line of duty on March 16, 2010, following the collision of two Union Railroad freight trains near Pittsburgh, Pa.
Monheim, 54, was a member of BLET Division 700 located in Braddock, Pa. He is survived by his wife and 12 year-old-son. Brother Monheim, 54, was a member of the Brotherhood for 31 years, having joined on August 1, 1978. He worked for the Union Railroad for 35 years.
According to preliminary reports, Brother Monheim was operating a train of empties when it collided with a train carrying iron ore pellets to U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thompson Plant in North Braddock, Pa.
The trains were operated by Union Railroad, part of Transtar Inc., a transportation subsidiary of U.S. Steel. The Edgar Thomson plant is part of U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works and produces steel slabs.
Two BLET members working 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.
Reed began working for the railroad in August of 2004 and first joined the Brotherhood on December 1, 2004. He is survived by his fiancée, Jamie Diercks, their daughter, Brynn, and her daughter, Delaney Holmes.
Brother Osborn, a Marine sergeant who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, had just joined the Brotherhood. He is survived by his fiancée Jennifer Schreiner; one daughter, Kaliann Schreiner and Jennifer’s daughter Bailey Baker.
Brothers Reed and Osborn were both members of BLET Division 266 in Savanna, Ill.
Locomotive Engineer Eddie Robert M. Sanchez, 47, was one of 30 people killed when his Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., on September 12, 2008.
More than 130 others were hurt in the crash, which was called one of the worst train accidents in the history of California. He was a member of BLET Division 20 in Los Angeles, and had been a BLET member for 10 years at the time of the accident.
This accident let the pass of Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Emergency Order 26, which banned the use of cellular phones and other electronic devices in the locomotive cab.
Brother Myers, a member of BLET Division 204 (Linton, Ind.), was killed in the line of duty on September 10, 2008. An employee of the Indiana Rail Road, Brother Myers was working on the ground as part of a two-person train crew when a tanker derailed at low speeds while servicing the Tangent Rail Products facility in Terre Haute, Ind.
Brother Myers, 42, joined the BLET on January 1, 1998, and had hired out with the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1992. He began working for the Indiana Rail Road in 2006. Survivors include his son, Kevin Myers and wife Misty; daughter Whitney Myers; granddaughter, Peyton Myers; his father, Gary Myers; grandmother, Frances Martin; sister, Shannon Myers; two brothers, Joe Myers and Grady Myers; the mother of his children, April Counterman; and several nieces and nephews and other extended family.
Brother Pendarvis, a member of BLET Division 523 in Chickasha, Okla., was killed in the line of duty on August 29, 2008, when his Union Pacific locomotive collided with a propane tanker truck near Medford, Okla.
The collision triggered a massive explosion and also caused the death of conductor Larry B. Williams, a member of the United Transportation Union, and truck driver Dennis Wayne Etherton.
Brother Pendarvis, 52, joined the BLET on April 1, 2004. He is survived by his son, Travis and his mother Julie Lonewolf; two step-children Shamieka and Donte; one step-grandson Kobe; his childhood sweetheart Kym; his parents Jean and James Guesby; father William Marvin Craine Sr. and a host of aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and co-workers.
The accident occurred at 9:20 a.m. on August 29, about three miles south of Medford, Okla., in Grant County. The truck driver had just filled his tanker with propane at the Conoco-Phillips LP underground storage facility south of Medford before the accident. The truck was on the train tracks when the 76-car train struck it.
The locomotive event recorder indicated Brother Pendarvis sounded the horn and was trying to stop the train just prior to impact. Mike Honigsberg, emergency management director for neighboring Garfield County, said Brother Pendarvis and Conductor Williams were heroes for their last-second attempts to halt the train.
“In my opinion, that was a heroic effort because if they didn’t, there was nothing to stop that train between here and Enid,” he said. “They probably prevented another major catastrophe.” Enid is about 35 miles south of Medford.
BLET member John T. Wright II, a member of BLET Division 383 in Winslow, Ariz., died after suffering a serious heart attack while completing a setout of a locomotive in Winslow, Ariz. He was a BNSF locomotive engineer for 31 years and was 59 years old at the time of his passing.
He is survived by his wife, Sandra; sons John Wright III, Sam Owens and Clayton Lutz; daughters Dianna Wright, Samantha Deanda, Candice Lutz and Nicole Lutz.
Brother Frederick C. Phelps, 55, was killed in the line of duty on March 5, 2008, as he was crushed between two railroad cars while making a delivery.
He was working as a Wisconsin & Southern Railroad employee when died about 9:20 p.m. on March 5 at Lakeside Foods Co. He belonged to BLET Division 184 in Schiller Park, Wisc. Prior to working at the Wisconsin & Southern, Brother Phelps was a conductor for the CN/Wisconsin Central. Brother Phelps entered into the United States Navy in 1972 and was honorably discharged in 1976. He worked on his family farm for many years until he entered into the Peace Corps where he taught agriculture in Honduras from 1984 until 1989. He married Sara E. Puerto Flores on March 1, 1996 in Honduras.
He is survived by his wife Sara; two sons Jeffrey J. Phelps and F. Quincy Phelps of Whiting, Ind.; three daughters Millicent C. Phelps and Jennifer M. Phelps both of Whiting, Ind. and Cresent V. Harris of Jacksonville, Fla.; his mother Alice H. Phelps and her companion Donald Backus of Gouverneur, N.Y.; two sisters Melinda K. Virnig and her companion Thomas Ritchie of Harrisville, N.Y. and Teresa Y. and Maurice Gutierrez of Alamogordo, N.M.; two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
Two BLET members were killed in rear-end collision on UP’s Yuma Subdivision. Brothers Artino and Walker were both members of BLET Division 660 in Los Angeles.
Brother Artino joined the BLET on July 1, 2004, and had worked for the railroad since June of 1998. Brother Walker joined the BLET on October 1, 2006, and began railroading in March of 2004.
Brother Eddie Sanchez, Local Chairman of BLET Division 134 in Winslow, Ariz., was killed in an automobile accident while driving to represent his division as a Delegate to the BLET’s First Quadrennial Convention in Las Vegas. He was 54 years old and is survived by his wife, Donna, four children and two grandchildren.
Delegates voted unanimously to establish an “Eddie Sanchez Memorial Fund” and collected more than $33,000 to donate to the Sanchez family. He was a locomotive engineer on the former Santa Fe lines for the past 33 years and joined the BLET on June 1, 1975.
Brother G.Y. Bailey, Local Chairman of BLET Division 62 in Houston, was killed on September 15 when his train collided head-on with a southbound chemical train in dark territory about 60 miles northeast of Houston. Both Union Pacific trains derailed, causing a hazmat spill.
Along with serving as his Division’s local chairman, he was actively involved in the organization as a primary member of the BLET Safety Task Force and the National Mobilization Team. He also served as Chairman of the Southwestern Convention Meeting in 2004. Brother Bailey, 51, began working for Union Pacific in 1978 and joined the BLE in 1992.
BLET Division 203 (Jackson, Miss.) members Mark Cain and Arthur “Buddy” Irby were killed on July 10, 2005, when their CN/IC locomotives collided head-on in Anding, Miss. Two other crew members were also killed in the collision. Conductors Shannon Purvis, 21, of Puckett, Miss., and Samuel Jones Sr., 58, of Jackson, Miss. were both members of the United Transportation Union.
Brother Cain, 51, joined the BLE on November 1, 1986. Brother Irby, 58, joined the BLE on October 1, 1973. Brother Irby worked for the CN-IC for 36 years and served for more than 20 years as Local Chairman of BLET Division 203.
Brother Christopher G. Seeling, Secretary-Treasurer of BLET Division 85 (Columbia, S.C.), was killed on January 6 when his Norfolk Southern train collided with another train that was stopped in a siding. He was one of eight people to die in the accident. Brother Seeling, 28, joined the BLET on March 1, 2001.
Brother Kenneth Leonard of BLET Division 5 (Los Angeles, Calif.) was killed in a head-on collision between two Union Pacific freight trains on December 10. Brother Leonard joined the BLE on November 1, 1992. He was 44 years old. Four other crew members were taken for medical treatment as a precaution for what were considered minor injuries. Five locomotives and seven rail cars were derailed.
Glen A. “Skip” York, II, a member of BLET Division 811 in Clovis, N.M., was killed in a remote control switching accident in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe yard in Clovis, N.M., on September 2. Brother York, just 26 years old at the time of his death, joined BLET Division 811 on April 1, 2004, following in the footsteps of his father, Glen A. York, who also belonged to Division 811.
Brother Heath Pape, a member of BLET Division 197 in San Antonio, Texas, was killed in a collision between a Union Pacific train and a BNSF train on June 28, 2004. Brother Pape had just joined the BLET. He was 23 years old. The train derailed around Southwest Loop 1604 and Nelson Road, near the town of Macdona, Texas. A total of 23 cars from the two trains derailed, according to fire officials.
BLET Division 230 (Meridian, Miss.) member Dennis Vinson was killed in a collision between his Norfolk Southern train and a gasoline tanker truck on June 25, 2004. He was 58 years old. Brother Vinson joined the BLET on June 1, 1990. The train had a three-person crew. The train’s conductor, Anthony J. “Tony” Mills, 58, was also killed in the accident, and the brakeman, Charles LaBella, 58, jumped off the rear of the train and suffered minor injuries. The driver of the truck, Henry Blount, also died.
E.M. “Mike” Rogers, a member of the BLET, was killed in a head-on train crash near Gunter, Texas, on May 19, 2004. Brother Rogers, 49, was a member of BLET Division 172 in Fort Worth, Texas. He first joined the Brotherhood on April 1, 1998.
Jeff C. York, a member of the BLET, was killed in a yard switching accident on May 18, 2004. Brother York, 35, worked for Norfolk Southern and first joined BLET Division 106 in Muncie, Ind., on December 6, 2000. He was working as a conductor and standing on a ladder on back of a train’s last box car when the accident happened. As the train backed up, he became pinned between the train and the left front fender of a semi that was making a delivery of vinegar to the Red Gold tomato processing plant in Elwood, Ind.
Engineer Anthony C. Rodella, 57, and conductor Jeffrey S. Bohler, 32, were killed in the collision of two Union Pacific freight trains in Carrizozo, N.M., on February 21, 2004. Rodella and Bohler were both members of BLET Division 192 in El Paso, Texas. Brother Rodella joined the BLET in 1974 and Brother Bohler became a member in 2003.
BLE member Art P. McKay of BLET Division 843 (Prince George, B.C.) and conductor Ken LeQuesne were killed in the line of duty on May 14, 2003, as a railroad trestle collapsed under their Canadian National freight train. Two locomotives and six cars plunged into a ravine and caught fire. Brother McKay joined the BLE on May 1, 1981.
Brother L.W. “Wayne” Edenfield died on May 7, 2003, from injuries sustained in an Amtrak collision with a log truck near Hinesville, Ga. Brother Edenfield was a member of BLET Division 35 (Jacksonville, Fla.), having served a term as its Secretary-Treasurer in the late 1990s. He first joined the BLET on April 1, 1983. Brother Edenfield, 53, was the locomotive engineer of Amtrak’s Silver Star (Train No. 91) when a log truck pulled into his path at 7:25 a.m. in Liberty County, east of Hinesville, Ga. The locomotive and all 10 cars derailed but remained upright.
BLE member G.D. Shelby was killed and three other train crew members injured in a fiery head-on collision between two Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains near Clarendon, Texas, on May 28, 2002. Brother Shelby, 61, was killed when the westbound freight train on which he was the engineer collided with an eastbound coal train about two miles west of Clarendon. Brother Shelby had joined BLE Division 871 in Slaton, Texas, on September 1, 1989.
Brother Charles B. “Charlie” Smith, 35, was struck and killed by an Amtrak train as he boarded his Norfolk Southern freight train just north of the Edgemore freight yard near Delaware. It is believed he either fell or was “sucked in” by the wind of the fast moving passenger train. Brother Smith was 22 years old when he first joined the BLE on Aug. 17, 1989. He was Local Chairman of BLE Division 484 (Delmar, Del.) at the time of his death. He is survived by a wife and two children. “He was a very conscientious union representative and a good man,” said Division 484 Secretary-Treasurer Everette M. Masten Jr.
Brother Mike W. Hoover, 48 years old, lost his life when his Burlington Northern Santa Fe train unexpectedly encountered a mainline switch lined for a siding. The train was traveling at approximately 46 miles per hour when it collided head-on with several locomotives attached to an unoccupied train, which had been previously parked in the siding for several days. Brother Hoover joined BLE Division 207 (Casper, Wyo.) on Aug. 1, 1977. “Losing Mike is very much like losing a close family friend,” said Division 207 Local Chairman Eric Kriegh.
Brother T.O. “Tom” Landris, a 27-year member of BLE Division 650 (Durand, Mich.), was killed in a head-on collision just outside of Detroit, Mich., on November 15, 2001. Also killed was UTU Member Gary Chase.
Their train, #243, was traveling from Flat Rock, Mich., to Flint, Mich., when it collided head-on with train #533, in a siding near Springfield Township. A fiery blaze ensured, forcing the evacuation of 100 homes in the area. Brother Landris was 49 years old at the time of his death.
BLE member Ray J. Ste. Marie, 48 years old at the time of his death, was killed while deadheading from Houston to the Union Pacific terminal in Alexandria, La. As the van he was traveling in slowed down for a highway construction zone on Interstate 10, just east of Lake Charles, La., it was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler. The van was shoved into the rear of another 18-wheeler, killing Brother Ste. Marie, the van driver, and a conductor, M. Deramus, 48. Brother Ste. Marie was a Union Pacific locomotive engineer and a member of BLE Division 366 in Houston, Texas. He joined the BLE on Sept. 1, 1980, as an engineer for the former Southern Pacific Railroad. He was Chaplain of Division 366 from 1997-2000.
Brother D.E. Nichols Jr. of BLE Division 255 (Steubenville, Ohio) was killed the morning of January 11, 2001, near South Fork, Pa. It is believed that the Brother Nichols had stopped to inspect for flat spots and was hit by a train on an adjacent track while traveling between Conway and Harrisburg, Pa. Brother Nichols, 52, joined BLE Division 255 in 1971 and was a resident of Richmond, Ohio. He was survived by his son and his father.
Brother Wayne Connor, 56, died of injuries stemming for a highway-rail grade crossing collision near East Feliciana Parish, La., on June 26, 2000. A loaded log truck collided with Brother Connor’s CN-Illinois Central locomotive, causing the trains’ forward locomotive to derail and run into a trackside embankment.
Brother Connor was elected chairman of the BLE’s Louisiana State Legislative Board just days before his death. He also served as president of Division 914 (Baton Rouge, La.). The fatal collision happened exactly one week after Brother Connor’s 56th birthday. He first joined the BLE on Jan. 1, 1979.
A fiery crash of two Canadian National freight trains on December 30, 1999, in Mont-St.- Hilaire, Quebec, led to the tragic death of two railroad workers, including BLE member Yvan Theriault. Also killed was Conductor Paul Davis. Theriault, 47, was a member of BLE Division 558 (Charny, Quebec). He joined the BLE on September 1, 1977. He left behind a wife, Diane Tremblay, a son, Frederic, and a daughter, Caroline. Two trains were traveling in opposite directions on different tracks when they collided in Mont-St.-Hilaire, about 50 kilometers east of Montreal. CN officials speculate one of the trains derailed and tipped over onto the other. The accident caused a fire ball that sent flames shooting 50 meters into the air, lighting up the night sky.
R. A. Oertwig, 48 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 778 in Des Moines, Iowa. Had been a BLE member for 19 years. Brother Oertwig was killed when his Union Pacific locomotive struck a tractor-trailer that had ignored a grade crossing signal in Hardin County, Iowa.
Employees of the I&M Rail Link, BLET members Carl Finzel and Arnold Roth were killed when their train hit cars that had been left on the track in Clinton, Iowa. Engineer Finzel, 60 years old at the time of death, was a member of BLE Division 119 in Dubuque, Iowa. Brother Finzel had been a BLE member for 30 years. Arnold Roth, fellow member of BLE Division 119, was also killed in the crash. Brother Roth had been a BLE member for two years.
Via Rail locomotive engineers Don Blain and Kevin Lihou, both members of the BLE, were killed in a wreck near Thamesville, Ontario, Quebec, on April 23, 1999. Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) concluded in their post-accident analysis that lightning-fast thinking by Blaine and Lihou probably saved dozens of lives, even though they themselves faced impending death. A track switch had been left in the wrong position and had put two passenger trains on a collision course. Blain and Lihou were in the cab of Toronto-bound Train No. 74 when they realized Windsor-bound Train No. 71 was coming towards them on the same line and where the switch was in the wrong position. The two men radioed a frantic warning to the crew of Train No. 71 and immediately slammed on their brakes and shut down their locomotive’s engine to reduce the risk of explosion.
There were 180 passengers on Train No. 74 when it crashed into four stationary rail cars containing ammonium nitrate. Blaine and Lihou were both killed and 77 people were injured. “The quick actions of the two crew members in the Via train’s locomotive probably saved many lives. With just seconds to act, the crew members radioed a warning to another passenger train approaching from the other direction. Canadians owe these men a lot of gratitude. Their actions helped avoid potential death and/or injury to almost 300 people on the two trains,” said Benoit Bouchard, Chairman of the TSB.
Engineer Don Blain, 45 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 747 in Mimico, Ontario. Had been a member for 15 years. Engineer Kevin Lihou, 33 years old at the time of his death, had just recently joined the BLE and was a member of BLE Division 747. Blain had 25 years of railroad experience while Lihou had 12. On May 29, 1999, all VIA Rail trains across Canada stopped for one minute and sounded their whistles in memory of Don Blain and Kevin Lihou. In 2001, both men were posthumously awarded Meritorious Service Medals from the Governor General of Canada.
BLE member Roger H. Bell, 56 years old at the time of death, was a member of BLE Division 457 in Toledo, Ohio. Had been a BLE member for 26 years. Brother Bell was killed when three Conrail trains collided in heavy fog near Toledo, Ohio, on January 17, 1999.
Locomotive engineer Debbie Dickerson, 42 years old at the time of her death, was a member of BLE Division 114 in Waterloo, Iowa. She joined the BLE on April 1, 1989, and was employed by the Illinois Central Railroad. She was killed after being struck by a train while walking in the rail yard at Hawthorne, Illinois, on October 26, 1998.
BLE member David Butler, 51 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 192 in El Paso, Texas. Had been a BLE member for 24 years. Brother Butler was killed when a train hit the off-duty taxi he was riding in near Small, Texas, on May 13, 1998.
BLE member J.L. “Joe” King, 46 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 81 in Kansas City, Kansas. He had been a BLE member for 19 years. Brother King was killed by a passing train in Topeka, Kansas, as he dismounted his train to inspect his locomotive consist. He had been an employee of Union Pacific Railroad for 23 years.
Locomotive engineer Roy W. Adams, 54 years old at the time of his death, was a member BLE Division 568 in Dennison, Texas, for 22 years. He was killed when a runaway locomotive consist collided with his freight train in Fort Worth, Texas, on August 21, 1997. Brother Adams had been employed by Union Pacific for 25 years.
Locomotive engineer Michael E. Brown, 46 years old at the time of his death, was member of BLE Division 81 in Kansas City, Kansas, for over six years. He was killed in a side swipe collision and chemical spill involving two Union Pacific freight trains near Rossville, Kansas, on July 2, 1997. Brother Brown had been employed by Union Pacific for 19 years and was promoted to locomotive engineer in January of 1991.
Locomotive engineer Kelvin N. Winters, 30 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 190 in Huntington, W.Va. He was killed in a rear-end collision and chemical spill involving two CSX trains in Scary, W.Va., on June 7, 1997. Brother Winters had been a BLE member for two years at the time of his death.
Locomotive engineer Terrance Allen “Terry” Gallis, 39 years old at the time of his death, was a member of Division 855 in Kamloops, B.C. Brother Gallis died on March 26, 1997, as a result of his Canadian National train hitting a track wash out and derailing in Conrad B.C.
Locomotive engineer, William B. Smith, Jr., 57 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 803 in Savannah, Ga. He was killed when a log truck collided with his CSX locomotive at a grade crossing in Waycross, Ga., on September 24, 1996. A veteran railroader, Brother Smith had earned promotion to locomotive engineer on April 9, 1962.
Locomotive engineer, Tom L. Shay, 42 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 284 in Grafton, W.Va. He was killed in a head-on collision involving two CSX freight trains in Smithfield, W.Va., on August 20, 1996. Brother Smith had earned promotion to locomotive engineer in January of 1995.
Locomotive engineer Jake Elder, 45 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 864 in McLennan, Alberta. He was killed in a head-on collision involving his Canadian National train and a cut of runaway cars near Edson, Alberta, on August 13, 1996. A veteran locomotive engineer, Brother Elder hired on with the Canadian National Railway at Edmonton in 1974 and qualified as a locomotive engineer in 1979. Brother Elder served on the Audit Committee of Division 864.
Locomotive engineer, J.M. Roybal, 44 years old at the time of his death, and C.W. Reagan, 34 years old at the time of his death, were both members of BLE Division 29 in Pueblo, Colorado. They were killed following the derailment of their Denver & Rio Grande Western locomotive, which resulted in a chemical spill, near Leadville, Colorado, on February 21, 1996.
Brother Roybal had earned promotive to locomotive engineer on February 1, 1977. Brother Reagan was working as a Student Engineer at the time of the fatal derailment, a position he had held since January 1, 1996.
Locomotive engineer, Ricky M. Orr, 43 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 97 in Baltimore, Md. He was killed in a side swipe collision involving an Amtrak train and a MARC commuter train in Silver Spring, Md., on February 16, 1996. Brother Orr began working on the railroad in 1970, and had earned promotion to locomotive engineer on July 1, 1974.
Locomotive engineer, Alfonso S. DeBonis, 47 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 171 Hoboken, N.J. He was killed in a side swipe collision and derailment involving New Jersey Transit trains 1254 and 1107 near Secaucus, N.J., on February 9, 1996.
Brother DeBonis had earned promotion to locomotive engineer from NJ Transit on January 1, 1991. Also killed in the crash was locomotive engineer John DeCurtis, 59, a member of the United Transportation Union who had more than 40 years of railroad seniority.
Locomotive engineer, Dale W. Gibson, 45 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 103 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was killed in a rear-end collision and derailment involving two Union Pacific freight trains near Laramie, Wyo., on November 18, 1995. Brother Gibson had earned promotion to locomotive engineer from the UP on April 1, 1978.
Locomotive engineer, Randall L. Moses, 43 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 35 in Jacksonville, Fla. He was killed in a head-on collision involving his Amtrak train and a sludge truck near Zana, Fla., on September 21, 1995. Brother Moses had been employed with Amtrak since August 1, 1980.
Locomotive engineer Peter Whitehead, 39 years old at the time of his death, and Shawn Trevor Hogg, 31 years old at the time of his death, were both members of BLE Division 563 in Cranbrook, B.C. They were killed when their CP train his a rock slide and derailed into Kootenay Lake near Proctor, B.C., on January 20, 1995.
Locomotive engineers F.H. “Rick” Bonnell, 56 years old at the time of his death, and Milby E. Winn, 59 years old at the time of his death, were both members of BLE Division 566 in Del Rio, Texas. They were killed in a head-on collision involving two Southern Pacific freight trains near Marathon, Texas, on July 25, 1994.
Brother Bonnell hired out with the Southern Pacific (SP) on April 1, 1963. Brother Winn hired out with the SP on May 1, 1974.
Locomotive engineer Tim V. Anderson, 34 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 622 in Alliance, Neb. He was killed in a collision and derailment involving three Burlington Northern freight trains near Thedford, Neb., on June 8, 1994. Brother Anderson hired out with the BN on July 1, 1980.
Locomotive engineer Robert Brooks Woodward, Sr., 41 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 14 in Washington, D.C. He was killed in the derailment of Amtrak Silver Meteor train #87 following a collision with an intermodal trailer from CSX train #176 near Selma, N.C., on May 16, 1994. Brother Woodward had been employed with Amtrak since May 1, 1986.
Locomotive engineer J.L. Plunk, 55 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 23 in Southaven, Miss. He was killed in a head-on collision involving Illinois Central trains BRME-25 and MENL-26 near Flora, Miss., on February 26, 1994. He had been employed with Illinois Central Railroad since October 1, 1992.
Locomotive engineer Mark A. Poler, 41 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 892 in Seattle, Wash. Locomotive engineer Wayne R. Kronberger, 40 years old at the time of his death, was a member of BLE Division 518 in Seattle, Wash. Both men were killed when a Burlington Northern freight train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train near Kelso, Wash., on November 11, 1993.
Brother Poler had earned promotion to locomotive engineer for the Union Pacific on November 1, 1990. Brother Kronberger had been employed by the Burlington Northern since March of 1979 and had earned promotion to locomotive engineer in July of 1980.
Locomotive engineers Billy R. Hall, 47, Ernest L. Russ, 43, and Mike D. Vinet, 39, were killed when Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train derailed on CSX’s Big Bayou Canot Bridge near Mobile, Ala., on September 22, 1993. All three Brothers belonged to BLE Division 18 in New Orleans, La. Brother Hall hired out on June 1, 1980; Brother Russ hired out on January 1, 1974; and Brother Vinet hired out on July 1, 1979.
The accident was caused by displacement of a span and deformation of the rails when a tow of heavy barges collided with the rail bridge eight minutes prior to derailment. Forty-seven people were killed and 103 more were injured. It is the deadliest train wreck in Amtrak’s history. Three locomotives slammed into the displaced span at approximately 70 miles per hour. The lead locomotive embedded itself nose-first into the canal bank and the other two locomotives, together with the baggage car, sleeping car, and two of the six passenger cars, plunged into the water. Despite the displacement of the bridge, the continuously welded rails did not break. As a result, the track circuit controlling the bridge approach block signals remained closed (intact) and the nearest signal continued to display a clear (green) aspect.
Locomotive engineer Richard A. Marks, 40 years old at the time of his death, was Local Chairman of BLE Division 537 in Fort Wayne, Ind. He was killed in the head-on collision of two Norfolk Southern trains and subsequent derailment near Knox, Ind., on September 17, 1991.
Brother Marks had worked for the Norfolk Southern and its predecessor railroads since August 1, 1972. He was a delegate’s to the BLE’s 1991 International Convention and he also served as Chairman of the Credentials Committee. He was married and the father of two children. His son, C.W. Marks, was a locomotive engineer with Norfolk Southern and also a member of Division 537.
Locomotive engineer Peter L. Sylvester, 59 years old at the time of his death, was employed with Amtrak and was a member of Division 752 in Albany, N.Y. Shortly after Westbound Amtrak train 49 departed Rochester, N.Y. with engineer Sylvester at the throttle, an eastbound Conrail freight passed Train 49 in a series of curves. A shifted load of lumber struck the engineer’s side of the cab, killing Brother Sylvester instantly. Division 752 donated the engineers to operate a Turbo Train at no cost to Amtrak so that Amtrak employees could attend Brother Sylvester’s funeral service.