A Norfolk Southern conductor was killed Tuesday after being struck by a dump truck at a facility in Ohio, prompting a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the railway’s safety culture due to the “number and significance” of recent accidents.
The conductor, identified as 46-year-old Louis Shuster, was fatally injured early Tuesday morning at the Cleveland-Cliffs Cleveland Works property, the railroad said in a news release. It is the third incident involving the railroad in the state in just over a month.
Shuster was struck when a dump truck carrying limestone collided with the front left side of the first car of the train. He was outside the car when he was struck, a Cleveland police spokesperson told CNN.
Norfolk Southern is working with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, the Cleveland Police Department and Cleveland-Cliffs representatives to learn more, it said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it had sent crews to the scene.
The NTSB said in a statement later that its safety culture probe encompasses multiple incidents and three deaths since December 2021, including the toxic East Palestine derailment and the employee killed earlier Tuesday. It is already investigating a October 28 derailment in Sandusky, Ohio.
“The NTSB is concerned that several organizational factors may be involved in the accidents, including safety culture,” the board said in a statement. “The NTSB will conduct an in-depth investigation into the safety practices and culture of the company. At the same time, the company should not wait to improve safety and the NTSB urges it to do so immediately.”
Norfolk Southern’s CEO is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee Thursday.
“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 railroad said.
Northfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said in a separate statement the railroad will hold safety briefings with employees on Wednesday as part of a broader effort to “rebuild our safety culture from the ground up.”
“We are going to invest more in safety,” Shaw said. “This is not who we are, it is not acceptable, and it will not continue.”
Shaw said the cause of the accident is not yet known and that the company will cooperate fully with the NTSB.
“In some ways, the cause does not matter,” Shaw said. “I called together every member of our management team … to emphasize the urgency of finding new solutions.”
Shaw said he visited the rail yard in Cleveland after the accident and talked with some of Shuster’s coworkers.
“They shared stories about an individual who was respected and liked by his colleagues,” Shaw added. “This is an awful day that leaves a hole in our company’s spirit. We have reached out to Lou’s family to offer our condolences. We will give them time to grieve, and we will be there with support for anything they need.”
Shuster was member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and employed as a Norfolk Southern conductor, according to the union.
“Lou was a passionate and dedicated union brother,” said Pat Redmond, Local Chairman of BLET Division 607. “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.”
Shuster, a resident of Broadview Heights, Ohio, was president of BLET Division 607 in Cleveland. Shuster has a 16-year-old son and cared for his elderly parents, and was an Army veteran, the union said.
“This was a tragic situation and it’s a devastating loss for the Shuster family as well as the members of this union,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall. “All railroad accidents are avoidable. This collision underscores the need for significant improvements in rail safety for both workers and the public.”
Cleveland-Cliffs is a flat-rolled steel company, according to its website, and its Cleveland Works facility sits on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland.
CNN has reached out to Cleveland-Cliffs, Cleveland police and the Ohio governor’s office for more information.
The conductor’s death comes as Norfolk Southern is facing criticism for two recent derailments in Ohio, including one in East Palestine last month that resulted in the release and burning of a toxic chemical that left nearby residents complaining of headaches, coughing and rashes they believe are tied to the fiery crash.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture will meet farmers from the East Palestine area Thursday to discuss concerns about the upcoming planting season, according to DeWine’s office.
The agency said it will host the roundtable discussion, though currently there’s no reason to believe crops planted in the soil around East Palestine aren’t safe to eat, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
About half of the soil under the south tracks at the derailment site has been removed down to the clay, but sampling will continue to determine if the clay is also contaminated, according to the release.
As the railroad works with the Environmental Protection Agency to remediate the site, it announced a new six-point safety plan Monday designed to help prevent similar derailments in the future.
And in Springfield, about 200 miles southwest of East Palestine, another Norfolk Southern freight train derailed Saturday.
The crash knocked out power and the area and resulted in a temporary shelter-in-place order for homes within 1,000 feet of the scene. Crews later determined nothing had spilled from the derailed cars and there was no environmental harm.
Casualties, including injuries and deaths, involving railroad employees are not uncommon, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration, which shows there were more than 3,250 incidents involving on-duty employees across the industry in 2022, including 185 involving Norfolk Southern employees.
Eleven rail employees died while on duty last year, the administration said. One of those individuals was a Norfolk Southern employee.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the number of incidents among Norfolk Southern employees and other railroads that resulted in injury or death last year. A previous version used data from an incorrect time frame.