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Man dies after walking in front of train in Brainerd

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Law enforcement vehicles block the 13th Street Southeast railroad crossing as a BNSF Railway coal train sits on the tracks before 3 a.m. in Brainerd. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch 2 / 5
Law enforcement vehicles block the 13th Street Southeast railroad crossing as a BNSF Railway coal train sits on the tracks before 3 a.m. in Brainerd. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 5
Law enforcement vehicles block the 13th Street Southeast railroad crossing as a BNSF Railway coal train sits on the tracks before 3 a.m. in Brainerd. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch 4 / 5
Signs warn motorists of a closed railroad crossing on Business Highway 371 as nearly every crossing was closed by a stopped coal train early Wednesday morning. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch5 / 5

A 38-year-old Brainerd man was struck and killed by a BNSF Railway train during the early morning hours Wednesday, July 11, near Southeast 13th Street in Brainerd, Brainerd police reported.

The fatality was reported about 2:30 a.m.

Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston, in a news release, stated Brainerd police officers were stopped at a railroad crossing for an eastbound train when the train made an abrupt stop. Officers continued east, finding the front of the BNSF train east of the crossing at Southeast 13th Street in Brainerd.

Officers met with the train operator and learned a 38-year-old man was observed near the crossing at that intersection. The man then went onto the tracks directly in front of the moving train. The train operator immediately applied the brakes; however, the man was struck by the train, police reported. Officers located the man, who appeared to have been killed instantly by the impact of the train.

Officers were able to identify the Brainerd man but his name is being withheld pending notification of family members. His body was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office.

The fatality was first confirmed in an email statement Wednesday from Amy McBeth, BNSF Railway spokeswoman.

"A train struck and fatally injured a person laying on the tracks. This occurred along the tracks, not at a designated crossing. BNSF officers and local emergency personnel responded to the scene," McBeth wrote.

Police continue to investigate this matter in cooperation with BNSF Railway authorities. Anyone with information regarding this is asked to call the Brainerd Police Department at 218-829-2805.

Brainerd resident Rudy Cluever was sitting on his front step waiting for his morning paper to arrive when he heard the sound of the train screeching to a sudden stop and thought it must have hit something.

"I just heard the crash, kind of screeching and metal screeching and crashing and scraping—all of a sudden you could tell the engines were stopping," Cluever said, recalling the sound as the train came to a stop. "I hope nobody got hurt, but if that hit a vehicle—not good."

Cluever grabbed his bike and rode the short distance to Southeast 13th Street, where he saw the flashing lights. He only heard one siren in response as a police vehicle went farther east. While North Memorial Ambulance was on the scene, it was not with emergency lights flashing or sirens going.

According to witnesses on the scene, the front engines of the coal train came to a stop just east of Southeast 13th Street inside the BNSF Railway yard next to the Northern Pacific Center. The train stretched through Brainerd, blocking nearly every north/south route through the city from Southeast 13th Street to Northwest Fourth Street. Law enforcement officials blocked the crossings at Southeast 13th Street and Northwest Fourth Street with the crossing arms down and flashing railway lights illuminating the crossings in between.

As authorities were investigating the scene, law enforcement officers were stationed to divert traffic and pedestrians on both sides of the Southeast 13th Street train crossing. Officers at that time could not state what may have happened to stop the train.

The almost nonexistent traffic at 3 a.m. picked up as dawn drew closer. About 4:30 a.m., the train slowly pulled away. Emergency vehicles continued to block the Southeast 13th Street crossing. As the sky began to lighten and morning traffic picked up, vehicles turning from Washington Street onto Southeast 13th Street were being turned around.

Fire department equipment was requested at the scene just before 5 a.m., according to police scanner radio traffic.

Dispatch staff writer Jennifer Kraus contributed to this story.

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