Railroad Accident Nov 11, 1993, Kelso, WA
N 46° 04.503 W 122° 52.049
10T E 510247 N 5102394
Quick Description: On November 11, 1993, a Burlington Northern freight train was involved in a head-on collision with a Union Pacific freight train near Kelso, Washington.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 3/26/2011 11:23:29 PM
Waymark Code: WMB2F2
At about 12:24 AM, on November 11, 1993, a Burlington Northern freight train headed southbound for Portland collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train near Kelso, Washington, at milepost 102.8, killing all 5 members of the crews from both trains in a fiery crash and derailment that tossed flaming railcars onto Interstate 5.
Investigators later concluded that a flashing yellow warning light was missed by the crew, shortly before the accident. The yellow light was flashing to warn the BN engineer to slow the train to 35 mph and prepare to stop at a signal located 9,600 feet further south. It was later determined the BN crew missed a caution signal due to fog, and continued south at a speed as high as 55 mph.
The Burlington Northern train was comprised of 117-cars and the Union Pacific train had 83 cars as they traveled toward each other on the same track, smashing into each other just south of Kelso near the Columbia River. The site is about 130 miles south of Seattle.
The crash caused an explosion and a huge fireball that was fueled by the 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel on the two trains. The eight locomotives pulling the two trains were destroyed and the forces of the collision and the explosion sent burning freight cars and shipping containers flying onto nearby Interstate 5.
The victims were all railroad veterans with a decade or more experience. The BN crew were identified as engineer Wayne Kronberger, 40, of Bothell, who had 14 years of service with the railroad; conductor Larry Brooks, 56, of Seattle, who had 24 years employment with the railroad, and brakeman Kenny Mercer, 49, employed 29 years by the railroad, from Puyallup. Mercer was one of four workers who had been cited for heroism by BN after catching a transient who had stolen three locomotives and led workers on a high-speed chase in early 1990.
The UP crew were identified as conductor Tom Klein, 50, (29 years with the railroad) of La Center, and engineer Mark Poler, 41, of Tacoma.
With 60 trains using the two sets of tracks daily, this is considered one of the busiest railroad corridors in the US, including use by Amtrak 2 to 3 times per day.
The section of track was closed to freight and Amtrak trains for three days.
Following the crash, the two Railroads implemented new safety features called "Positive Train Control" on 750 miles of UP and BN track.