Two Blue Earth men walked away from a train crash east of Bricelyn on Tuesday afternoon.
A semi driven by 35-year-old Shannon Sunken was crossing over railroad tracks when the trailer it was pulling, loaded with an excavator, was struck by a Union Pacific engine.
“We heard a big boom. It was unreal and amazing. Like nothing you can ever imagine,” says Sunken.
“We thought the trailer hit the tracks because it was low to the ground. It seemed like we stopped before the force picked us up and took us,” he adds.
Neither Sunken nor 31-year-old Nicholas Cooan were injured. Both were wearing their seat belts.
The Faribault County Sheriff’s Office, Bricelyn ambulance and fire department responded to the accident that occurred around 2:36 p.m. on 50th Street in Seely Section 11.
“It’s a bad crossing because it’s at an angle. There have been three accidents there in the past several years,” says Sheriff Mike Gormley. “People have to be careful. Trains nowadays are hauling more and moving faster.”
Gormley says three engines were pulling nearly 100 rail cars.
Deputy Shane Dulac says railroad employees estimate the train was traveling 40 mph when it struck the trailer.
“The engineers hit the emergency brakes when they saw the train was going to make contact,” he says. “They got down and didn’t even watch what happened. That’s their protocol.”
County authorities and Union Pacific officials are continuing to investigate the accident.
For Dulac, it was the third train accident he’s been called to during his 15 years as a law officer.
“It’s ugly. People have to stop and take time to look both ways, even in the middle of nowhere,” he says.
On Wednesday, Sunken was planning to see a doctor because he was starting to get sore.
Sunken says he doesn’t know how much damage his trailer and excavator sustained, which are owned by G&S Drainage and Excavating in Blue Earth.
Gormley says railroad officials estimate damage to an engine at $250,000.
While Sunken told authorities he stopped at the railroad crossing, he likely will be given a ticket.
Dulac says under state law it’s not enough for a motorist to stop when there’s an oncoming train.
“Technically, if a train is visible the motorist should remain stopped until it goes by,” he says.
The deputy says the county attorney also will review investigation findings to determine if additional charges will be filed.