A southern Minnesota teenager off from school for a snow day was struck in his pickup truck by a train and killed, authorities said Wednesday.
The crash occurred late Tuesday morning on an icy county road south of Austin that crosses the tracks running parallel to Highway 218, according to the Mower County Sheriff's Office.
Killed was Joe Lewison, 18, of Rose Creek. Lewison was a senior at Pacelli, a Catholic high school, in Austin. Classes at Pacelli and many other schools across the southern swath of Minnesota were called off or delayed Tuesday due to wintry weather conditions.
Sheriff Terese Amazi said the road that Lewison was driving eastbound on at the time was snowy and icy before his vehicle took a "glancing blow" from the northbound freight train. Lewison was about four miles from completing his trip home. He was not wearing a seat belt, the sheriff said.
"People are not doing what they need to do," Amazi said, when it comes to driving safely at railroad crossings.
She noted that the soon-to-be-retiring conductor of this particular train told law enforcement on the scene that he has been involved in 23 fatal crashes with motor vehicles in his long career.
"Conductors are not driving recklessly," the sheriff said. "They are just following the tracks."
At this spot, Amazi said, there is a stop sign for traffic and cross-bucks marking the crossing. There are no cross-arms or flashing lights.
The sheriff said there have been crashes previously at this spot -- none fatal -- and they all could have been avoided had motorists been more careful.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482