by Jim Boyle
Elk River Police were called to two car versus train accidents in two days this week, and amazingly no one was injured or killed.
The first one happened at about 7 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 17 when a 33-year-old Big Lake woman and her 15-month-old son slid on the tracks and became stuck after striking another vehicle in front of her, according to police and transit officials.
The driver of the vehicle that was rear-ended told police he was northbound on Proctor when he observed the cross arms down with flashing red lights.
He said after the stop arms went up, they started to go back down again as the woman’s car was crossing the tracks, according to Elk River Police Capt. Bob Kluntz. He told police the woman’s car slid into his vehicle and it appeared to be disabled.
Kluntz said the man also said he watched the woman climb out her car window and try to get her child out when the train approached and she backed away from the vehicle.
Following the collision, the mother immediately retrieved the child and went to a nearby business for help, Kluntz said.
The car was left unoccupied and the train had come to a stop about ¼-mile away, Metro Transit Police said.
Police interviewed the woman at the business. Neither mother nor child appeared injured, however, both were later transported to an area medical facility for evaluation and were released.
Kluntz said the female driver told the officers that her car “died.” She said she attempted to turn around, but was unable to do so, Kluntz said.
Because this is the same train that served the last southbound trip from Big Lake to Minneapolis, Metro Transit initiated replacement bus service to cover that last trip. However, the train was cleared from the scene after about 30 minutes and ultimately did depart Big Lake about 25 minutes behind its scheduled time of 7:21 a.m., according to John Siqveland, a public relations manager for the transit police.
The second car versus train accident involved an Elk River motorist who apparently didn’t want to wait for a train to cross at Jackson Avenue and Highway 10 after being stopped by the crossing’s lights, clanging noises and stop arm, according to Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe.
The crash was reported at 5:15 p.m on Feb. 18. The 2008 Chrysler Sebring involved in it was being driven by a 21-year-old Elk River woman. She had two passengers in the vehicle; a 23-year-old Elk River man and a 20-year-old Zimmerman man.
Witnesses told police that the Sebring was facing south on Jackson at the railroad crossing arms, which were down and the lights were flashing. The driver allegedly drove around the arms and was struck by a Northstar train.
The three occupants were able to get out of the car and off the tracks before a second Northstar train traveling in the opposite direction struck the car further damaging the vehicle, Kluntz said.
No one was injured in the crash, but when police showed up they had an emergency medical crew come out anyway to evaluate them.
The driver could be charged in the case, Rolfe said.
Metro Transit and St. Cloud Metro Bus enacted replacement bus service. Replacement buses served customers aboard both trains involved in the incident as well as two other scheduled trips. Customers experienced significant travel delays.
The crossing was shut down for over two hours while railroad officials and northstar commuter officials inspected the rail lines, the crossing signals, and the two trains involved in the incident. The 21 year old driver was cited by police for failing to stop at the railroad crossing arms.
The evening’s final Northstar train departed Minneapolis on time, but was delayed en route and arrived about 40 minutes behind schedule.