Woman dies in Independence car vs. train crash

This is city’s second car vs. train collision in a month 

Pauline Lang, 25, of Buffalo, was driving this four-door compact car when it collided with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train, Saturday, March 8, at the BNSF tracks on County Road 92 North in Independence. Lang died at the scene. (Photo courtesy of West Hennepin Public Safety)

Pauline Lang, 25, of Buffalo, was driving this four-door compact car when it collided with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train, Saturday, March 8, at the BNSF tracks on County Road 92 North in Independence. Lang died at the scene. (Photo courtesy of West Hennepin Public Safety)

West Hennepin Public Safety, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad are investigating the cause of a March 8 car versus train crash in which a 25-year-old Buffalo woman was killed.

The Medical Examiner said on Sunday, March 9, that Paulina Lang died at the scene of the accident — the BNSF tracks at their intersection with County Road 92 North in Independence.

This was the second time in nearly a month that West Hennepin Public Safety had responded to a car crash on railroad tracks in Independence, said WHPS Director Ray McCoy.

WHPS received the call at approximately 1:17 a.m., Saturday. The location of the railroad tracks is near where Highway 12 and County Road 92 intersect. The railroad crossing is controlled by flashing lights and lane gates. All equipment appeared to be working at the time of the crash, according to WHPS.

Both the train and the car were traveling west, police said. The four-door compact car made a right turn to go north on County Road 92. The train and the car collided at the crossing. Lang, the lone occupant of the car, was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no injuries to crew members of the BNSF train.

WHPS was assisted at the crash by the Medina and Three Rivers Park Police Departments, along with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Maple Plain Fire Department.

“We remind everyone to be cautious around railroad tracks,” McCoy said. “Always obey crossing arms and flashing lights. Never try to beat the train at the crossing. It is hard to judge the speed of large trains approaching. They appear to be moving slower that what they are.”

The railroad and its right of way are private property.

“BNSF tells us to remind people that they do not want people walking, snowmobiling, riding ATVs or anything else on their property,” McCoy said.

Here are some other safety tips from the Operation Lifesaver program:

• Freight trains don’t travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.

• All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it’s illegal trespassing and highly dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks, it’s too late. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 miles per hour more than a mile — the length of 18 football fields — to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

• The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car.

• Trains have the right of way 100 percent of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, police and pedestrians.

• A train can extend 3 feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the 3 foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties, always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.

• Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.

• Today’s trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale “clackety-clack.” Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster, than you think.

• Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.

• Stay alert around railroad tracks. Avoid texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.

For more safety tips and videos from Operation Lifesaver, visit http://oli.org.