2010 "Black Shirt Friday"

“Black Shirt Friday” to Honor Those Rails Killed on the Job

by Jon Flanders, RWU Co-Chair IAM 1145

On Friday, April 23, Melinda J. Carter was killed in Chicago during routine switching operations while working a remote control (RCO) job. The following Monday, April 26th James Knell, a MTA track worker, was killed in New York City when he slipped in the rain and fell on an uncovered third rail.

Sister Melinda J. Carter is the latest rail fatality and victim of Remote Control Operations (RCO). On June 18th, 2010, railroaders will honor her death -- along with other rails who have lost their lives on the job this year -- by wearing black.

Sister Melinda J. Carter is the latest rail fatality and victim of Remote Control Operations (RCO). On June 18th, 2010, railroaders will honor her death -- along with other rails who have lost their lives on the job this year -- by wearing black.

These two fatalities are just the latest in a grim string of rail worker deaths in the last several years. Right in the nation’s capital, five Washington DC Metro workers have been killed on the tracks in the past year. Layoffs, downsizing and an increased reliance on one person operations are taking their toll on the rail workforce.

After the death of UTU remote control operator Jared Boehlke in the CSX Selkirk, New York yard last Mother’s Day, rail workers there decided to initiate a "Black Shirt Friday" movement for the Friday of Father's Day weekend. This idea was taken up and spread by rail workers across the USA and picked up and supported by Railroad Workers United.

At its second biennial convention, held in Dearborn, Michigan this past April, Railroad Workers United decided to support making "Black Shirt Friday" an annual event on Father's Day Friday, to also be know as "Railroad Workers Memorial Day".

Railroad Workers United encourages all railroaders to join together to make Black Shirt Friday and Father's Day Friday, which this year will be June 18th, a day of remembrance for fallen brothers and sisters, and a day of solidarity and unity against the carriers relentless drive for profits at the expense of safety for railroad workers.

Please show your support for those railroaders killed on the job by wearing a black shirt to work on Friday, June 18th, and let your fellow workers -- as well as the unions, the FRA and most of all the carriers -- know that you are making a stand against the unsafe practices and policies of the rail carriers.

Railroaders Killed on the Job in 2010

October 11, 2010  -  Orange, TX  -  MATTHEW ETHEREDGE, a 23 year old Orange resident was training to be a rail switchman at a facility that manufactured ethylene and copolymer products, and used a fleet of approximately 600 railcars to pull raw materials into and finished products out of the plant. He was working the 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. shift with a five person crew. The crew consisted of an engineer, conductor, yardmaster, switchman and Mr. Etheredge. At a little past midnight, members of his crew lost contact with him for approximately ten minutes. When Etheredge was located, he was found lying next to the railroad tracks with visible facial injuries with no pulse. Emergency medical personnel were summoned. They arrived and pronounced him dead. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was blunt force injury of the chest, back, and abdomen.

September 4, 2010 - In Mobile, Ala., conductor Josh Roper, 27, died Sept. 4 while working a conventional switching job with Alabama State Docks Terminal Railroad. He had been furloughed by CSX before hiring on with the state-owned railroad. Roper was member of UTU Local 598. He is survived by his wife, Cassie, and two-year-old daughter.

September 2, 2010 - John M. McCabe, 52, of Ridley Park, Pa., and member of UTU Local 1390 died Thursday, Sept. 2, near Paulsboro, N.J. FRA investigators said the Conrail Shared Assets conductor was killed during a two-man conventional switching move into an industrial facility. The FRA said the move was observed by a surveillance camera “seconds before impact.”

September 1, 2010 -  Minneapolis, MN  -  Andrew Kim Weaver, 53, a veteran employee of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, was killed September 1, 2010 in the northern Twin Cities suburb of Coon Rapids.Authorities said the man stepped off a test train and walked onto a nearby track, where he was hit by a Northstar commuter train that he apparently did not see. At the time, authorities said that was because he was talking on his cell phone. It’s a story that been repeated — with some reason — after a series of recent high-profile accidents involving trains. But since then, family members began to question that claim, saying the story didn’t jibe with what they knew of the veteran employee of the BNSF Railway. Under pressure from Weaver’s family, the sheriff’s department this week said Weaver was not on his cell phone at the time he died, reversing its earlier version of events. Now, the office says Weaver, 53, of Fridley, apparently was using his cell phone shortly before he died — but not at the exact moment he was hit.

July 13, 2010 - Deerfield Mass - Kurt Ward, a 35-year-old UTU member, died following an on-duty accident early July 13 on Pan Am Southern Railway. Ward, of North Conway, N.H., a member of UTU Local 587 at Greenfield, Mass., was caught under a railroad car as he and others attempted to uncouple it from an engine while they were working in a River Road railroad yard. He died from his injuries at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. He is survived by his mother, Lee Ward; father, Roy Ward; brother, Keith; and sister-in-law, Laurie.

July 2, 2010 - Meridian MS - Darrell Amerson, a member of BLET Division 230, was killed in the line of duty on July 2, 2010, following an accident in a Norfolk Southern yard in Meridian, Miss. Brother Amerson, 42, joined the BLET on June 1, 2008. According to Division 230 Local Chairman Brian Glebe, the accident occurred around 10:30 p.m. in the Meridian rail yard. Brother Amerson suffered severe trauma to his leg and passed away at Rush Foundation Hospital around 1:30 a.m. on July 2 due to complications from his injury. Brother Amerson had worked for Norfolk Southern for three and a half year. He is survived by his wife, Angela.

June 20, 2010 - New Orleans LA - Frederick Gibbs, a 52-year-old on-duty CSX conductor, was shot to death June 20 in what New Orleans police say was a botched robbery attempt. The shooter reportedly entered the locomotive cab and began firing. The intermodal train, enroute to New Orleans from Atlanta, was stopped near downtown New Orleans awaiting clearance into a terminal when the crime occurred. Gibbs is survived by his wife, Gwen; mother, Alneda Gibbs; two sons and four grandchildren.

June 15, 2010 - Norfolk NE - UTU member and Nebraska Central engineer Jeff Scholl, 38, of Norfolk, Neb., died June 15 after a railroad bridge collapsed near Sara’s Lake in Norfolk. Scholl was a member of UTU Local 367. He is survived by his wife, Suzie, and sons, Ryan and Brendan.

June 10, 2010 - Doswell, VA - Marshall W. Conner, 54, a member of UTU Local 610, died after being struck by a train June 10. Conner, a 26-year veteran railroader and a resident of Spring Grove, Va., was hit by a northbound freight train traveling a parallel track while he was conducting an air brake test at a CSX yard north of Richmond. Conner is survived by his wife of 34 years, Debi Conner; son, Eric Conner and wife, Hilary and their daughter, Haley; daughter, Kelly Stallings and husband, Drew; mother, Dorothy Conner; and two brothers and three sisters.

May 31, 2010 - Kearney, NJ - Brother Gregory G. Kastner, a veteran NJ Transit hostler, had just finished fueling his engine and was walking back to another locomotive when he was struck around 3:30 a.m. on May 31, 2010 at NJ Transit’s Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny, N.J. Tragically, Brother Kastner, 63, was just 20 days from retirement when the fatality occurred. According to his friend and Brother Fred Mattison of Division 373, Brother Kastner chose not to retire as soon as he was eligible. Instead, the devoted father and husband decided to continue working a few extra years to provide for his family. He and his wife, Grace, were looking forward to retirement and had just purchased a retirement home in Florida. Brother Kastner was a member of BLET Division 272 in Dover, N.J., and he joined the Brotherhood on April 2, 2004. He is survived by his wife, Grace (Moran) Kastner, his three children, Cristin Farney and her husband, Steven, Kimberly McCloskey and her husband, William, and Ryan Kastner, as well as his granddaughter, Micaela Kastner.

May 11, 2010 - Diamondville, WY - Paul Cook, a 39-year-old Union Pacific railroad worker from Bellevue, Neb., was beaten to death last Tuesday night, May 11, just before midnight at the Fairview Motel in Diamondville. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s office deemed it a homicide, marking South Lincoln County’s first homicide since 2004. The last homicide in Lincoln County occurred in 2009.

April 23, 2010 - Malinda Jean Carter, 36, a member of Local 1534, Chicago, was killed April 23, 2010, in a switching accident at CSX¹s Barr Yard in Riverside, Ill. She was chairperson of her local’s remote control operation (RCO) oversight committee and was employed by CSX for almost seven years. She is survived by her mother and father, Delois and Ray Carter, a brother, David, a sister, Mildred, and many nieces and nephews.

March 25, 2010 - Washburn, ND - The man killed in a train derailment south of Washburn has been identified as Jeff Heitzmann of Mandan. Heitzmann, 46, was killed in the derailment of five Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad engines on Thursday, according to an obituary. Five DMVW Railroad engines derailed about 2½ miles south of Washburn Thursday onto the bank of Turtle Creek. One man escaped from one of the engines and made it to a house to call 911. Employees at DMVW, which employs 56 people out of its Bismarck office and about 100 overall, are having a hard time coping with the loss of Heitzmann, Wood said. The company is a "pretty big bunch of family," including some relatives of Heitzmann's, he said. "We're all pretty close knit," Wood said.

March 20, 2010  -  El Monte, CA  -  Roberto Ramirez, a Union Pacific employee was sitting in a maintenance truck on a railway crossing east of El Monte and was struck and killed by a Metrolink train Saturday morning. Three passengers on the train received injuries that were not life threatening.

March 16, 2010 - North Versailles, PA - BLET member Andrew Monheim was killed in the line of duty on March 16, 2010, following the collision of two Union Railroad freight trains near Pittsburgh, Pa. Monheim, 54, was a member of BLET Division 700 located in Braddock, Pa. He is survived by his wife and 12 year-old-son. Brother Monheim, 54, was a member of the Brotherhood for 31 years, having joined on August 1, 1978. He worked for the Union Railroad for 35 years. According to preliminary reports, Brother Monheim was operating a train of empties when it collided with a train caryring iron ore pellets to U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thompson Plant in North Braddock, Pa. The trains were operated by Union Railroad, part of Transtar Inc., a transportation subsidiary of U.S. Steel. The Edgar Thomson plant is part of U.S. Steel's Mon Valley Works and produces steel slabs.

January 26, 2010  -  Rockville, MD  -  Federal officials investigating the deaths Tuesday of two Metro employees are trying to determine why the driver of a Metro utility vehicle did not know that the men were working behind him on the tracks.  Jeff Garrard, 49, of Clarksburg was pronounced dead at the scene. Sung Duk Oh, 68, of Montgomery Village died at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. Garrard had worked for Metro since 1990, officials said, and Oh since 1998. Between the two of them, they had worked for Metro for almost 10,000 hours before their careers ended Tuesday under the crush of a three-ton truck backing down the tracks in the middle of the night. CLICK HERE for NTSB report.

January 12, 2010 - Walker Springs AL - UTU member Aaron Milhouse, 46, died Jan. 14 from injuries suffered as a result of a Norfolk Southern train fire Jan. 12. Milhouse, a member of Local 1053, in Selma, Ala., was burned when his train encountered a burning trestle in Clarke County, then ground to a stop directly over the fire. He is survived by his wife, Rachel, his son, Aaron Jr., and his father, Dawson.  CLICK HERE for FRA Report.

January 12, 2010 - OAKVILLE, Ontario, Canada  — A 42-year-old Hamilton railway worker crushed between two boxcars at the Ford Plant late Monday died early today. Michael Chiarelli died in Hamilton General Hospital after being transferred following emergency surgery at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. Halton police said the incident happened just after 5 p.m. in a body shop at the Ford Motor Company, where a railway line allows locomotives to move material in and out of the plant. Halton Detective Gerard Kelly said Chiarelli, a brakeman for the Canadian National Railway for almost all of his 20-year career with the company, was standing on the back of a train as it backed in to connect with a stationary train. But the coupling attachment did not connect and the man was pinned, he said. “He was conscious at first, but later lost consciousness,” said Kelly, adding one of the trains had to be moved to free the trapped man. Transport Canada will lead the investigation into whether there was any equipment malfunction or human error. Julie Senécal, a spokesperson for Canadian National Railway, said Kelly was a dedicated, full-time employee since 1990. Calling the incident “extremely sad,” she said CN has been in contact with the family to express their condolences and will co-operate fully with any investigation. Chiarelli leaves behind a wife and three children.