Train slams grain truck: truck driver injured, 18 cars derail

Ashley Roness
Star Staff Writer

A local man sustained serious injuries, 18 railroad cars derailed and freight traffic was disrupted after a BNSF freight train hauling coal cars struck a truck on a railroad crossing east of Miles City on Sunday.

The loaded grain truck was destroyed, and pieces of the truck were scattered along a quarter-mile stretch of tracks, according to the Associated Press.

The grain truck became stuck on the track while trying to cross, said Bud Peterson, Custer County fire warden.

Ross Lane, BNSF public affairs director, said the empty train, pulled by two diesel locomotives, was heading westbound at 54 mph. The track speed limit is 55 mph.

The collision occurred at 4:44 p.m. at the Lapps Railroad Crossing, Lane said. 

An empty freight train can take up to a mile to come to a complete stop. The crew blew the whistle before impact, Lane said. 

Brandon Kelm, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper, said the driver of the truck is in serious condition at St. Vincent’s Healthcare in Billings. He estimated the man is in his 40s. His name has not been released.

According to Lane, no one on the train was injured. 

Both locomotives and 18 railcars derailed. A heavy crane arrived at about 10 p.m. to put the railcars back on the track, according to Peterson. Some had sustained damage. 

The track was still closed this morning as crews worked to remove the cars and repair the tracks.

According to a news release, Miles City Fire and Rescue responded to the crash with one engine, an ambulance and incident command unite. Local residents and BNSF employees helped locate the patient.

The driver was transported to Holy Rosary Healthcare (HRH) in Miles City before being flown to Billings.

This is at least the third accident involving a BNSF train in Custer County this year. The first two resulted in fatalities.

The incident is being investigated by BNSF and the Highway Patrol. 

Responding agencies were Custer County Fire Department, Custer County Sheriff’s Office, Prairie County Sheriff’s Office, Miles City Fire and Rescue and the Montana Highway Patrol. 

(Contact Ashley Roness at or 406-234-0450. Staff Writers Amorette Allison and Denise Hartse, and the Associated Press, contributed.)