Feb. 12, 2003: Car driver blamed in train crash

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 13, 2008 - 6:35 PM
The crash that killed four young people at a railroad crossing in Anoka in September was caused mainly by the driver's ignoring a
flashing cross arm signaling the train that ripped the car in half, investigators found. <P>   The investigators concluded in a report released Thursday that traces of alcohol were found in two of the people killed in the crash, but it was an insignificant amount. Anoka police also found beer cans in the car's wreckage, but they appeared to be unopened, the reports said.

Police detected no sign of drug or alcohol use by the Burlington Northern train engineer or conductor.

The crash scene was "consistent with the Chevrolet Cavalier having driven around the cross arm for southbound Ferry St.," according to a reconstruction report by State Patrol Sgt. Scott Trautner.

He said he wasn't able to determine which of the three people thrown from the car was driving the car, which had a manual transmission. However, he ruled out Harry Rhoades, 19, of Blaine, as the driver because his body was found belted in the front
passenger seat after the crash.

Anoka police reports indicated that the driver was probably the car's owner, Brian L. Frazier, 20, of Blaine.

The mothers of the two other people in the car - Bridgette Shannon, 17, of Ramsey, and Corey Chase, 20, of Coon Rapids - told
police that the two didn't know how to drive a manual transmission. And Frazier's roommate told police he rarely let anyone else drive his car., which bore the personalized license plate, THE FRAZ.

Police said that except for the train's engineer, Bradley Bellmore of Glyndon, Minn., there were no witnesses to the accident.

Bellmore, 42, told an Anoka County sheriff's deputy that he couldn't stop his 6,000-ton train in time.

"As we come up to the crossing and I was blowing the whistle, I seen a vehicle go around the gates and ... at 58, 59 miles an hour,
there was no time to react," he said.

He said he "knew the vehicle wasn't going to get across," adding, "It looked like it was full of people." His conductor looked up when he heard Bellmore yell.

 "I looked back, and I could see the car flipping through the air on my side of the engine," said Timothy Langeberg, 52. Both men
said they thought they saw one or two cars waiting at the crossing, reports said.

The Sept. 26 crash happened about 10 p.m. The Ferry Street crossing road was dry, and no equipment defects were found, the
State Patrol's report said. Crash expert Trautner said a westbound freight train is clearly visible to traffic on Ferry Street day or
night.

An Anoka officer at the scene that night saw Burlington Northern workers activating the flashing crossing signals and raising and
lowering the crossing arm after the crash and observed they seemed to operate properly.

Trautner noted, however, that Burlington Northern failed to provide signal-crossing data that railroad officials told him is
logged about how far away the train is when the signal is activated. A railroad official, Lynn Ross, said she has been unable
to get the information to Trautner, but plans to do so.

An analysis of the car's brake lights indicated that they were not on when the car was hit by the train, Trautner said. He found
the main factors in the accident were careless driving and failure to stop at the railroad crossing.

The report marks the end of the 2 1/2-month investigation, and the case has been closed, said sheriff's Capt. Bob Aldrich.

Jim Adams
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