An Amtrak train in North Carolina slammed into a tractor-trailer that got stuck on the tracks while trying to make a difficult left-hand turn Monday. One of the train’s cars toppled and the conductor and at least 54 others were injured.
It was the third serious train crash in the country in less than two months. Two deadly crashes in New York and California in February killed a total of seven people and injured 30.
The oversized flatbed trailer involved in Monday’s crash was transporting a modular building wrapped in blue plastic and jammed with electrical equipment, said Lt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
One of the troopers escorting the truck from Clayton, North Carolina to the Virginia border was trying to help the driver negotiate a difficult left-hand turn across the tracks onto a two-lane highway in the town of Halifax, Gordon said. But the 164-foot (50-meter) tractor-trailer combination couldn’t navigate it, he said.
During the five minutes or so the trooper and driver spent attempting to get the truck turned and off the tracks, there was no indication of an approaching train, Gordon said. When the train appeared, it set off warning flashers and the crossing arms came down as the truck was still straddling the tracks, he said. The train hit the truck shortly afterward, Gordon said.
He said the truck was unable to back off the tracks before the train hit because traffic had backed up on the road behind him.
Eyewitness Leslie Cipriani, who was in a car with a friend at a stop sign, heard the sound of the oncoming train and saw the crossing arms hit the tractor-trailer.
“I saw him jump out of the truck when he knew he couldn’t beat it. … I heard the train noise and thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s going to happen,”‘ said Cipriani, who shot video of the collision with her cellphone.
State transportation officials said 54 of the injured were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries after Monday’s crash. They said one had more serious injuries. Details were not immediately available.
Among the injured was the train’s conductor, Gordon said. Federal authorities said they believed 62 people were injured. The discrepancy could not be resolved immediately.
Federal Rail Administration spokesman Michael J. Cole said it appeared that the locomotive and two cars derailed. State transportation officials said one baggage car derailed.
The train had one locomotive and seven cars, Cole said. He said the authorized speed for the train is 70 mph (113 kph), but authorities don’t yet know how fast the train was traveling.
The Amtrak train was the Carolinian, which runs between Charlotte, North Carolina, and New York City each day. It was headed north at the time of the crash.
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