A Team Member's Quick Actions Prevent Accident

SEPTEMBER 2022 – A typical day switching rail cars at Freeport Industrial Rail became anything but for Watco Engineer and Operator Leo Mata.

Mata was behind the controls of a locomotive when he recently spotted a rope hanging too low off a power line located just above the railroad tracks. Unbeknownst to Mata, linemen from another company were working on electrical equipment at the time. Steering the rope across power lines, and unaware of the excess slack, was a lineman in a bucket truck more than 30-feet off the ground. 

Using his safety instincts, Mata applied the emergency air brake to avoid hitting the rope ahead. Fortunately, the locomotive stopped a foot away from colliding with the dangling rope. No injuries occurred thanks to the quick actions from Mata.

Watco Trainmaster Andrew Frazier recalls what happened next. He said, “The electrical workers had no idea there was slack in the rope. When I told them, they kept saying ‘thank you’ over and over again. I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened if Leo hadn’t spotted that rope.” 

Mata’s supervisor, Site Manager Filimon Gonzalez, agrees. He said, “Thanks to Leo, we avoided an accident that day. Running into the rope could have hurt someone.”

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