Chesterton Tribune

Worker killed at derailment site when crane falls on top of him

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A worker at the CSX derailment site in Jackson Township was killed on Thursday when a crane being used to clear the tracks fell on him.

The victim was identified as Michael Bowling, 43, of Dyer, a derail supervisor with Cranemasters Inc. of Hammond.

Porter County Deputy Coroner Bob Byrd told the Chesterton Tribune today that Bowling died instantly of multi-system trauma. A autopsy was scheduled for today at Porter hospital.

“Cranemasters was clearing the wreckage,” Byrd said. “In some way the crane became unstable and tipped and crushed Mr. Bowling.”

Cranemasters was one of several contractors at the scene with heavy equipment, Byrd said. According to its website, Cranemasters specializes in emergency derailment services, track construction and maintenance, bridge span replacement, and load adjustment and transfer.

Lt. Chris Eckert of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police said that the crane in question was in the recovery process itself—not being staged or re-located—when the accident happened. After the crane toppled and it was determined that Bowling was deceased, it took approximately three hours to “get other pieces of equipment to the scene” to ensure that the crane was stable enough to remove him “so nobody else got hurt,” Eckert added.

Also on the scene, assisting the Coroner’s Office, was the Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department. “The crane wasn’t stable enough that we could safely remove the body,” Fire Chief Bill Branham said. “We had to work out a plan to make it stable.”

“Our thoughts go out to Mr. Bowling’s family and friends,” CSX spokesperson Carla Groleau said this morning.

She noted that the cause of the derailment remains under investigation. When asked about the Federal Railroad Administration’s initial determination that track misalignment was the “probable cause”—as reported by Eckert on Thursday—Groleau said that she had not “learned of a cause yet.”

“My understanding is that it’s still under investigation.”

Groleau did say that one track has re-opened and that the other is expected to re-open later today.

The derailment occurred at around 4 p.m. on Wednesday along the CSX line between Mander Road and C.R. 400E in Jackson Township. The train—westbound for Chicago—consisted of 42 cars, most of them “well cars” carrying double-stacked semi boxes, 14 of which derailed.

No one was injured in the original incident and no hazardous material was released.

That stretch of track—posted at a 50 mile-per-hour limit—has been the site of several previous derailments over the past few years.


Posted 6/18/2010