BLET member dead; UTU member critical

February 9, 2011

A BLET member working a conductor assignment on Norfolk Southern was killed in a conventional shoving movement accident in Kankakee, Ill., Feb. 8; and a UTU member conductor is hospitalized in critical condition following a fall from a bridge into a frigid river in Covington, Va., Feb. 8 while working a switching move on CSX.

A fellow UTU member is being hailed a hero in saving the UTU conductor’s life.

Killed in the Kankakee accident was BLET member and engineer Stanley Watts, age 43, with five years seniority, who was working a conductor job as part of a three-person switch crew at a flat yard. Remote control was not involved.

A preliminary Federal Railroad Administration report said Watts was “crushed” between a car he was riding and another car. Kankakee is some 60 miles south of Chicago.

This was the first railroad on-duty fatality in 2011, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. There were 20 railroad on-duty fatalities in 2010 — eight of them UTU members.

In Covington, Va., about 60 miles northwest of Roanoke, Local 623 member Alvin Boguess, age 24, fell some 50 feet from a CSX bridge into the Jackson River while part of a three-person crew switching cars into a Westvaco paper mill around 7 p.m. Feb. 8. Remote control was not involved.

According to reports, the train’s switchman and Local 623 member Dale Smith, age 48, scrambled down an embankment and into the frigid water, risking his own life, to rescue Boguess, who was face down in the river. Smith is being treated for hypothermia, and Boguess was airlifted to a Roanoke hospital, where his condition is reported as critical.

Boguess signed on with CSX in December 2008, while Smith signed on in November 2008.