MANKATO — Snowplow driver Brad Bruegger remembers nothing about that snowy day several months ago. Maybe that’s just as well.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation worker had been plowing snow near Kiester when his truck became stuck on tracks at a railroad crossing.
The 55-year-old Wells resident received critical injuries he continues to recover from as he slowly wends his way toward his goal.
“I want to get back to work,” he said Thursday at MnDOT headquarters in Mankato, where the state agency’s annual Workers Memorial Day observance took place.
Similar events throughout Minnesota are taking place this week to commemorate workers who have died while working on MnDOT construction and maintenance projects.
Bruegger escaped that fate, but since 1960, 33 MnDOT employees and 15 private sector contractors have been killed on the job.
At Thursday’s observance Lee Hiller, president of Mankato Building & Construction Trades Union, recited a litany of casualties, including workers killed or seriously injured during such disparate endeavors as building a Mankato Hy-Vee supermarket, working at Bethany Lutheran College, paving a road in Delavan and, most recently, MnDOT worker Mike Struck’s death last year while performing flood mitigation work between Mankato and St. Peter.
Hiller concluded by alluding to the scores of people who began work this week on the massive Madison Avenue reconstruction project in Mankato and stressing the need for motorists to use caution.
“Talk to your friends and neighbors,” Hiller said. “Tell them to slow down and save a life.”
Bruegger had slowed to a dead stop that January afternoon when a Union Pacific train struck his truck and pushed it 1,900 feet down the tracks.
Bruegger’s truck was crossing the tracks where they intersect with Highway 22 when the truck’s underbelly blade became stuck in the tracks, according to the State Patrol’s accident investigation.
The train’s conductor tried to stop but couldn’t, and the truck was struck on its passenger side.
Video from the train shows the truck stopped on the tracks about 30 seconds before impact. Railroad crossing lights at that site flash 23 seconds before trains cross.
Bruegger’s injuries included broken ribs, a fractured jaw, and neck and brain injuries.
MnDOT hosted a fundraiser for Bruegger on Thursday afternoon at Hooligan's.