The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a fatal rail collision in Iowa yesterday between two trains operated by Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
“Early information indicates that a BNSF freight train collided with a standing BNSF maintenance train,” the NTSB said today in a statement. Investigator Michael Flannigan is leading a seven-person team for the inquiry, the board said.
Two Burlington Northern employees were killed, and two locomotives and multiple cars derailed in the incident in McPherson, Iowa, the NTSB said. Burlington Northern, acquired by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 2010, reported an increase to 21 collisions last year from 19 in 2009, according to Federal Railroad Administration data.
The crash occurred at 7 a.m. local time when an eastbound coal train with three locomotives hit the rear of an equipment train, said Gus Melonas, a Burlington Northern spokesman. The engineer and conductor of the coal train, whose names are being withheld, were killed, while the other train’s two crew members weren’t injured, he said.
Burlington Northern, which was a publicly traded company before the Berkshire takeover, reported 16 on-duty employee deaths in the five years through 2010, according to the Washington-based rail agency. Employee on-duty deaths for the U.S. railroad industry totaled 95 during the period.
Fort Worth, Texas-based Burlington Northern is the second- biggest U.S. railroad by annual revenue, behind Union Pacific Corp.
Buffett, 80, bought Burlington Northern for $26.5 billion in his biggest takeover. Increased profit at the railroad helped boost net income at Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire 61 percent last year. Berkshire took $2.25 billion in dividends from the railroad in less than 13 months of ownership.
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