- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The lawyer for the engineer of an oil tanker train involved in a fiery derailment near Casselton in 2013 suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and isn’t capable of returning to work, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Bryan Thompson, of Fargo, has filed a civil lawsuit in East Central District Court against BNSF Railway, accusing the railroad of negligence. The complaint says BNSF failed to properly inspect and maintain its equipment and failed to warn Thompson of the dangers of hauling explosive oil tank railcars.

“He was very fortunate not to be incinerated out there,” Minneapolis attorney Tom Flaskamp said.

Flaskamp said he expects the railroad to argue that Thompson, 34, who suffered no physical injuries, should be able to return to his job.

“I guess just as a lay person even looking at this, would you want an engineer in charge of an oil train or any other type of hazardous material train to have this in the back of his or her mind? And maybe be quick to go to the emergency brake?” Flaskamp said. “It’s understandable to me that this would not be a profession that would be advisable to this guy.”

BNSF attorney Lee Miller did not return a phone message seeking comment. BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth declined to comment.

“We’re reviewing the filing and will respond through the legal process,” McBeth said.

The accident about 30 miles west of Fargo happened when a train carrying soybeans derailed in front of a BNSF oil train, causing that train to also derail and set off a fire that could be seen from nearly 10 miles away. The crash spilled about 400,000 gallons of crude oil, which took several weeks to clean up.

The suit says Thompson suffered “severe and permanent injuries” as a result of the accident. He’s seeking unspecified damages.

Thompson is on leave of absence from BNSF. He is undergoing counseling and is taking classes to become a teacher, Flaskamp said.

“He is doing his best to stay away from the railroad environment and it’s difficult in that town of Fargo to do so,” the attorney said. “The railroad there is really prominent.”

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