On December 29, 2009, about 11:22 a.m., a BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) switching crew was shoving railcars into an industrial track on the west side of Northtown Yard in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The switch helper was riding on the lead railcar, which derailed and pinned him against the wall of a building, fatally injuring him.
At the time of the accident, the switch helper was operating one locomotive and five railcars by remote control. He was on the north side of the leading end of the railcar furthest from the locomotive, using an operating control unit connected to a harness worn on the front of his body, just above his waist, to remotely operate the movement. The weather at the time of the accident was clear, with a temperature of approximately 17° F. There was an accumulation of snow and ice on and around the tracks.