City employee dies in truck-train accident

Staff Reports

A Columbus city utilities employee died in a collision between a city-owned utilities truck and a Louisville & Indiana train Wednesday.

The city of Columbus identified the employee as Brandon S. Hendershot, who had worked as a water distribution laborer for the city utilities since September 2019.

“He was beloved by his family and co-workers,” the statement from Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been a part of Brandon’s life. My wife, Pam, and I both offer our sincere prayers and support to Brandon’s family.”

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Hendershot was initially transported from the scene by IU Health Lifeline helicopter shortly after the 12:40 p.m. accident Wednesday, Columbus police said.

The accident happened at railroad tracks at Indianapolis and Long roads, south of U.S. 31 in a “v”-shaped intersection that crosses the railroad tracks across from Heritage Automotive Sales.

When first responders arrived, passersby were attempting to help Hendershot, Columbus police said. Initial reports were that Hendershot had suffered serious, life-threatening injuries, Columbus police said.

Columbus firefighters from Engine 2 said when they got to the scene, Hendershot was already out of the vehicle. City police confirmed the dump truck involved was a Columbus utilities vehicle, although it was not marked with the city utilities logo. Investigators had noted the vehicle had municipal plates.

Accident reconstructionists were sent to the scene and an investigation is continuing. The railroad crossing had crossing lights, which were extensively damaged during the collision.

Assisting at the scene are the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, Columbus Fire Department, Indiana State Police, Columbus Regional Hospital EMS and railroad officials.

Columbus officials have warned community residents about increased train traffic on the Louisville & Indiana tracks, which have been leased to CSX for high speed rail. One of the main cautions officials have given is that trains are now traveling northbound and southbound on the tracks between Louisville and Indianapolis, and are allowed to travel at higher speeds.

Louisville & Indiana Railroad officials notified Columbus and Bartholomew County that longer, heavier and faster CSX trains are traveling through Columbus and Bartholomew County on L&I’s rail system. Louisville & Indiana Railroad and CSX Transportation won approval in April 2015 from the federal Surface Transportation Board to use L&I’s 106-mile mainline between Louisville and Indianapolis jointly and upgrade it to high-speed rail.

New crossing flashers and arms have been installed at three railroad crossings in the northern part of Bartholomew County. The upgraded crossings are located along county roads 400N, 450N and 500N, while Bartholomew County government agreed to pay for arms and lights at railroad crossings along three county roads — on County Roads 800N, 650N and 950S.