CLEVELAND — A Norfolk Southern employee — identified as 46-year-old Louis Shuster of Broadview Heights — has died following an incident in Cleveland early Tuesday morning.
Cleveland police say it happened around 1:30 a.m. in the 2600 block of West 3rd Street as a dump truck was "operating in a southwesterly direction with a full load of limestone approaching a stop sign at the railroad tracks."
After stopping, police say the truck — a Caterpillar 769C — proceeded forward and collided with the front left side of the first train car, which was operating in a southerly direction.
"The conductor was positioned outside on the front left side of the forward train car and was struck in the collision," according to Cleveland police.
Police say Shuster was pronounced dead at the scene.
"One of our well-respected colleagues, Louis Shuster, was fatally injured overnight in a tragic accident on the job. This is an awful day that leaves a hole in our company’s spirit," said Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw in a statement on Tuesday evening.
Shaw added that he traveled to Cleveland after hearing news about the incident. He added that the company plans to hold "safety stand-down briefings reaching every employee across our network" on Wednesday.
"Moving forward, we are going to rebuild our safety culture from the ground up. We are going to invest more in safety. This is not who we are, it is not acceptable, and it will not continue," Shaw stated.
"There's usually a ladder and [workers] climb up in a position where they're on a step, if possible," John Hiatt, an investigator for the Bresmeth Law Firm and former BNSF Railway engineer, said. "If not, they're just hanging from this ladder riding the car with a radio so they can have contact with the engineer."
Norfolk Southern released the following statement to 3News shortly after 9 a.m.:
"Norfolk Southern Corporation stated that Louis Shuster, a Norfolk Southern conductor, was fatally injured early Tuesday morning at the Cleveland-Cliffs Cleveland Works property in Cleveland, Ohio. At this time, officials are reporting that the conductor was struck by a dump truck as a Norfolk Southern train was moving through a crossing at the facility.
"Norfolk Southern has been in touch with the conductor’s family and will do all it can to support them and his colleagues. We are grieving the loss of a colleague today. Our hearts go out to his loved ones during this extremely difficult time.
"The company is working with the Cleveland Police Department and Cleveland-Cliffs representatives to confirm the details and learn everything possible about the incident. Further, the company has been in contact with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, SMART-TD union leadership, and Cleveland-Cliffs leadership.
"More information will be released in coordination with law enforcement as it becomes available."
Earlier Tuesday, a spokesperson for Cleveland-Cliffs told 3News that incident involved a collision between a Norfolk Southern train and the dump truck on a Norfolk Southern rail line that runs through Cleveland-Cliffs Cleveland Works property.
"As a result of the collision, a Norfolk Southern employee lost his life," the spokesperson said in an e-mail shortly after 6 a.m. "The location is being controlled by Cleveland police and Norfolk Southern."
Additionally, Senate Minority Leader Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) issued the following statement Tuesday morning, as the crash happened in Senate District 23:
"My heart goes out to the family and friends of Louis Shuster, the Norfolk Southern conductor who was killed this morning in Cleveland, as well as the driver involved in the collision. This tragedy is another example of how dangerous trains can be not only to our communities but to rail workers as well. As ranking member on the Senate Select Committee on Rail Safety, I hope we will address some of these dangers and explore policy solutions that will make our railways safer."
According to colleagues, Shuster served as president of the local 607 division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in Cleveland. The union says he was a United States Army veteran who leaves a 16-year-old son as well as his parents whom he had been caring for.
"Lou was a passionate and dedicated union brother," Pat Redmond, local chairman of BLET Division 607, wrote. "He was always there for his coworkers. He was very active in helping veterans who worked on the railroad and veterans all across our community."
Norfolk Southern has been the focus of headlines for weeks after last month's toxic train derailment in East Palestine.
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that it will open a special investigation into Norfolk Southern's safety practices and culture following the both the derailment in East Palestine and more recently in Springfield, Ohio.
Norfolk Southern on Monday released a six-point plan "to immediately enhance the safety of its operations" after the NTSB released their preliminary report on the East Palestine incident. You can read full details of that plan HERE.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated Norfolk Southern story on March 6, 2023.