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Dyer man killed in train derailment cleanup

Crane topples worker; no one else was injured in accident

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JACKSON TOWNSHIP | A worker directing crane operations at the site of a train derailment was killed Thursday when a crane toppled onto him, according to the Porter County Sheriff's Department.

Michael Bowling, 43, of Dyer, was pronounced dead at the scene, Porter County Chief Deputy Coroner Robert Byrd said.

Bowling was overseeing the clearing of rail cars and containers when one crane became unstable and fell on him just before noon, Sheriff's Department spokesman Chris Eckert said. Bowling was not operating the crane.

No other injuries were reported.

The accident occurred along the CSX railroad tracks northeast of Old Suman Road in rural Jackson Township south of U.S. 6. The rail tracks run along a raised rail bed with a steep drop-off into a swampy area at the derailment location.

Fourteen cars in a 42-car Chicago-bound freight train derailed at the site about 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Cranemasters, the crane's owners, were contracted by CSX to clear the derailment scene and worked through the night after Wednesday's incident, Eckert said. Two large cranes and earth-moving equipment were clearing damaged track sections and lifting derailed cars at the time of the accident, he said.

A representative at Cranemasters' Hammond office on Thursday afternoon said the accident was still under investigation.

Nearby resident Sheryl Heim, whose home has a direct view of the scene, said she had been watching the cranes clear damaged track from the ridge of the rail bed during the morning but was inside when one fell over.

The derailment was the third at the location since her family moved there in 2003, Heim said. Her son, Lucas, 13, heard Thursday's accident while watching TV.

"Everything in the house started shaking," he said. He looked outside to see rail cars crashing into each other and coming off the track, he said.

The Federal Railroad Administration was on scene to investigate the incidents, Eckert said.

Old Suman Road likely would be closed for more than a week, he said.

CSX spokesman Gary Sease said the railroad is investigating both Thursday's fatal accident and Wednesday's derailment.

Sease said CSX officials will look at the track, the locomotive and rail cars as well as how the train was being operated to determine why the train derailed. The locomotives have "event recorders" that will tell investigators how the train was being operated when the derailment occurred. It typically takes two to four weeks to investigate a derailment.

All cleanup work at the site is halted until public authorities complete their investigations into the accident.

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JACKSON TOWNSHIP | Officials with CSX were investigating Wednesday after 14 cars in a 42-car Chicago-bound freight train derailed just south of U.S. 6 in Porter County. The derailment shut down Old Suman Road, which could remain closed for several days, a police official said.

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