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BNSF workers in van killed by train near Kelso

THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2011, 10:25 A.M.

VANCOUVER, Wa. - Three Seattle-area residents died and another was in critical condition Wednesday night after a freight train struck a shuttle van headed from Longview to Vancouver.

The van’s three passengers were railroad employees who had finished their shift and were heading to a motel in Vancouver for the night, said Gus Melonas, spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Two BNSF employees and the driver, who worked for the shuttle company, were killed. The third BNSF crew member was taken by helicopter to a regional hospital.

Authorities did not release the names of the injured or dead.

The collision happened at 4:32 p.m. at a private crossing off Talley Way in south Kelso.

There is an X-shaped warning sign at that point, but there is no automatic crossing barrier to keep vehicles off the tracks when a train is approaching, Melonas said.

The shuttle van had left the Longview rail yard and was heading east across a set of three tracks when it was struck. The northbound grain train originated in Crookston, Minn.

The train was not derailed; rail traffic at the accident site known as Longview Junction was halted for several hours. No one aboard the train was injured, Melonas said.

Initial speculation is that the three-locomotive train was traveling at about 40 mph when it struck the van.

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