Bellingham woman sentenced to prison for ‘shunt’ attack on train tracks

Dec 17, 2021, 5:19 PM
BNSF, railroad...
A Burlington Northern Santa Fe train sits idle. (File photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(File photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Bellingham woman was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to a year in prison for railroad sabotage.

The federal judge in Seattle also sentenced 28-year-old Ellen Reiche to three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service.

Reiche was one of two people arrested on the BNSF Railway tracks near Bellingham, close to midnight on Nov. 28, 2020. Reiche was convicted in September 2021 of railroad violence for placing a shunt along train tracks near Bellingham.

Shunts can disrupt rail signals and lead to derailments. They can also prevent cars from being warned that a train is coming.

“Placing a shunt on active railroad tracks puts lives in danger – to drivers preparing to cross the tracks who may not get any warning lights of an approaching train, and to the homeowners in the area who could be endangered by a train derailment,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown in a written release. “In this case the shunt was placed just prior to the arrival of a train with 97 tanker cars loaded with crude oil. Thankfully, the device was discovered and removed before it could cause a tragedy.”

The FBI has investigated 41 cases of shunts placed along tracks in the North Sound since the start of last year.

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Bellingham woman sentenced to prison for ‘shunt’ attack on train tracks