NTSB investigating death of Norfolk Southern engineer in Decatur

Feb. 3—A locomotive engineer for Norfolk Southern was critically injured in its Decatur rail yard Wednesday and died Thursday at Huntsville Hospital, according to the NTSB and Morgan County Coroner Jeffrey Chunn.

A spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board said the accident took place at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday "when the locomotive the engineer was in was struck by freight cars."

In a statement, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) union identified the victim as Chris M. Wilson, 55, a locomotive engineer. BLET said Wilson, a member of the union, was a 30-year employee of Norfolk Southern.

"This tragic loss underscores the safety risks present in railroading, even in the controlled environment of a rail yard," BLET National President Eddie Hall said in the statement. "This week marks one year since Norfolk Southern's derailment and chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio. I hope as we reflect on that disaster and on the need to continually improve rail safety that we also pause to remember Brother Wilson and the family he leaves behind."

The NTSB said three of its investigators arrived in Decatur on Thursday and that a final report detailing probable causes of the fatality will not be released for 12-24 months.

Chunn said he's assisting the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railway Administration as they investigate the incident.

NTSB said it will not speculate on the cause "during the on-scene phase of the investigative process."

In a social media post Thursday, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said "incidents, fatalities, and injuries in rail yards have increased substantially. Just last night we launched (an investigation into) a Norfolk Southern employee fatality in a rail yard in Alabama. We've issued several safety recs that would, if implemented, prevent these tragedies."

Norfolk Southern issued a statement that it is "grieving the loss of a member of our team" and that it is "cooperating fully with the NTSB to understand what happened."

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eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.