Rail Link Worker Has Bad Day, Steals Train, Faces Prison
Derek Skyler Brux was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day on Thursday.
Then he stole a train.
Brux received a call from his immediate supervisor at Rail Link where he worked as a utility coal operator for three years at the North Antelope Rochelle Mine. The call "'...really kinda pissed me off'" and "'sent me over the deep end,'" according to a criminal compliant filed in U.S. District Court on Friday.
About 9 a.m., he uncoupled two Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotives from train cars at the mine, which is in Campbell County, and began driving them south into Converse County to send a message to his employer as a "'little hint you need to fix some things,'" he told investigators. The complaint said he was joking while being interviewed.
A BNSF dispatcher stopped all traffic on the lines to avoid a collision with another train.
Brux went "around the loop'" and "'pretty much squashed the f--- outta their scales'" and blew the locomotive's horn to alert people.
He stopped the train to place "'a very, very, nasty angry call'" to his supervisor to "'play chicken with her,'" and joked that she might perceive the call as probably "'a little life threatening.'"
After the call, Brux said he got angrier, started moving the locomotive, had second thoughts, but continued even though he didn't know what was ahead either with obstacles or other trains, according to the criminal complaint.
He estimated he was going about 50 mph most of the time, may have reached 70 mph, but probably averaged 60 mph. He passed through a public grade crossing and passed a BNSF maintenance crew, saying "they were probably pretty f----- scared."
When he got to the Nacco Junction, he encountered a switch that sent him into the North Antelope mine. He was about to back out when he heard conversation on the locomotive radio about switches and derails, He didn't want to derail the locomotive, stopped, then went forward again.
He came upon an idle Union Pacific train, hoped no one was on it or under it, and hit it while traveling about 10 mph. He backed up, went forward and hit it again, and was about to do it a third time when a Rail Link employee was able get on the locomotive and hit the fuel cut-off switch. "'And there ended my little escapade,'" according to the criminal complaint.
Brux fled on foot, and a Campbell County Sheriff's Office deputy found him walking along a creek bed near the crash site.
He may have thought the "'little escapade'" was funny, but BNSF and the feds do not.
Brux destroyed two switches that will cost upwards of $60,000 to replace. Damage to the BNSF locomotive is being assessed. (There was no apparent damage to the UP locomotive.) And driving 13 miles on the main line through the crossing grade, past maintenance crews and on one of the busiest sections of track in America "had the potential to cause catastrophic damage with grave results."
Brux in custody. He is charged with violating the "train wreck statute" with the more formal title of "violence against railroad carriers and mass transportation systems on land, on water, or through the air," which is punishable by up to 20 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.
His terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day probably will get worse when he makes his initial appearance in federal court in Casper on Wednesday.