CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A Wyoming man is facing sentencing after pleading guilty to a charge in connection with taking two locomotives from a coal mine and crashing them into another train — telling authorities he was angry at a supervisor.
Derek Skyler Brux, 22, will learn his punishment Friday before U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl in Cheyenne.
Brux pleaded guilty in January to a federal charge of "committing violence against railroad carriers," known in law enforcement circles as the "train wreck statute." The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Brux told FBI Special Agent James Patrick that his troubles started Oct. 9, when he received a call from his boss at the North Antelope Rochelle Mine, about 65 miles south of Gillette. He said the call "sent me over the deep end."
Brux had worked for Rail Link, a company that loads coal cars, at the mine for almost three years, according to court records. Peabody Energy says its North Antelope Rochelle Mine is the nation's largest and most productive coal mine, shipping over 110 million tons in 2013.
After getting the call from his supervisor, Brux proceeded to uncouple two attached Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotives from their train cars and decided to take out his frustrations by "going on the main line," according to Patrick's sworn statement filed in court.
Brux said he blew the train horn so other workers would get out of the way and then proceeded out of the mine and headed southbound on the main line at speeds he later estimated to be pushing 70 mph. He told Patrick he had no idea what might have been ahead of him on the track.
"Brux ran the locomotives at a high rate of speed on one of the busiest section of train tracks in the United States," Patrick stated. "The route of travel went through a public grade crossing and past a BNSF maintenance crew working on the tracks. Each action had the potential to cause catastrophic damage with grave results."
A BNSF dispatcher stopped all other train traffic in the area to reduce the risk of a head-on collision.
While he was traveling, Brux said he called his supervisor and asked said he wanted to "play chicken with her," Patrick stated. Brux stated that his supervisor might have perceived the call as "a little life-threatening."
After traveling about 13 miles, a switch directed the locomotives Brux was driving off the main line into another coal mine. He drove his locomotives into another parked train at about 10 mph and then backed up and hit it again, Patrick stated. Another mine worker then hit an emergency fuel cutoff switch and stopped him. He was arrested shortly after that.
Lawyers for Brux and the U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment in advance of Friday's sentencing hearing.