Train hits stuck truck at crossing

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A northbound Amtrak train struck a tractor-trailer crossing thetracks on Hog Chain Road about six miles south of BrookhavenTuesday afternoon.

Neither the driver of the truck, 55 Amtrak passengers nor the 10members of the train crew were injured in the crash, which occurredaround 4:15 p.m., officials said.

“We were real fortunate on this one that no one got hurt and thetrain didn’t derail,” said Lincoln County Sheriff’s DepartmentCapt. Dustin Bairfield, who is investigating the incident.

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Amtrak 58 was traveling from New Orleans to Chicago and “wasdelayed for 53 minutes by the investigation and to repair someminor damage,” said Marc Magliari, Amtrak’s Chicago-basedspokesman.

Ottis Sanders, 46, of 589 Cummings Loop, Pontotoc, was cited forobstruction of the railroad following the crash, Bairfieldsaid.

Sanders, a driver for G.A. West and Company of Mobile, Ala., wasattempting to cross the tracks to reach a nearby oil rig site. Thetrailer was loaded with a front end loader, Bairfield said.

“The truck driver realized he was not going to be able to crossthe tracks. He thought if he unloaded the front end loader he couldclear the tracks, but he got hung up,” Bairfield said. “He wastrying to get it unstuck and was going to use the front end loaderto free the truck when the train came.”

Sanders was in the truck attempting to free it when the trainrounded a bend in the tracks approximately one mile south of theintersection, Bairfield said. He heard the train blow its horn asit made the bend and realized he could not free the truck in timeto avoid the collision, so he jumped out of the truck.

“The train braked upon seeing the vehicle and slowed to about 20miles per hour or less at the time of impact,” Bairfield said.

Magliari said trains are authorized to travel at 79 miles perhour through that area.

“It would not be possible to stop a train short in that spacewhen it sees a vehicle,” he said.

The impact severed the trailer from the tractor and threw thetractor approximately 30 yards from the intersection, Bairfieldsaid.

The train engine received some cosmetic damage and a ladderallowing the conductor access to the engine was removed by CanadianNational Railroad workers. A ladder on the opposite side wasundamaged.

“These are avoidable if the drivers of vehicles take precautionsand if drivers of heavy vehicles know their limitations and haveproper clearance both below and above,” Magliari said.

Drivers are required to notify local authorities when somethingoccurs to block or damage railroad tracks, Magliari said. However,it does not appear Sanders notified anyone of his situation,Bairfield said.

The Department of Environmental Quality was called in to cleanup diesel fuel leaking from the tractor, Bairfield said.

“We released the train as soon as possible and then proceeded toclean up the accident scene and diesel leak,” he said.

Canadian National Railroad employee Doug Sicks inspected thetrack while emergency personnel worked to clean up theaccident.

After slow-moving traffic was authorized, a freight train passedthrough the scene of the accident at 10 miles per hour. Sicksclosely eyed the tracks before he gave the OK for normal traffic toresume.