Amtrak Train Collides with Cargo Truck in North Carolina: Dozens Hospitalized

An Amtrak passenger train derailed earlier this week, after it struck a stranded 127 ton tractor-trailer crossing the railroad tracks, injuring roughly 60 passengers and sending dozens to nearby hospitals. 

The Amtrak Carolinian carrying 212 passengers and eight crew members derailed on March 9, while traveling the CSX railroad in Halifax, North Carolina. The Amtrak crash occurred when the traim struck an oversized tractor-trailer transporting an abnormally large load at the U.S. Highway 301 and N.C. highway 903 intersections.

According to multiple reports, between 55 and 65 passengers aboard the Amtrak train were injured and many were treated at nearby hospitals.

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While the Federal Railroad Administration issued a statement indicating that the accident is still under investigation, dozens of personal injury lawsuits are expected over the Amtrak train accident, which appears to have been preventable.

Local authorities report that the tractor-trailer was carrying an oversized load for the PCX Corp. electrical distribution facility out of New Jersey. The truck had a combined weight of nearly 255,000 pounds, requiring a special permit and a highway patrol escort during the transport. While standard eighteen wheelers have five axels and have a maximum haul capacity around 80,000 pounds, the tractor trailer involved in this collision measured 164 feet long and was equipped with 13 axles, nearly tripling the size of a standard truck.

Local police reports suggest that the oversized tractor-trailer approached the CSX railroad tracks and spent roughly eight minutes attempting to maneuvere back and forth on the tracks to a right hand turn. According to witnesses, crew members spent a long time preparing to cross the tracks at the intersection and that once they began to cross, they appeared to be having great difficulty getting the load over the tracks.

Witnesses interviewed by the Associated Press said that the truck was halfway on the tracks and experiencing difficulty moving forward when the railroad lights started blinking. One witness reported that the truck driver “gunned it forward” to try and make one final attempt to get the truck off of the tracks until he was forced to jump out of the rig seconds before the Amtrak train traveling at 69 mph slammed into the stranded truck.

The Department of Transportation has well-established guidelines that require truck drivers and their escorts to clear routes and inform local railroad services of their crossings to prevent collisions.

Federal Railroad Administration official Steve Ditmeyer suggested that someone is liable for this incident due to failing to report the truck’s route and crossing. He added that the collision would have been preventable had the crossing been scheduled, which would have allowed the dispatcher to put up a red signal for Amtrak to stop all trains.

Reports suggest that neither the train conductor nor any of his crew members were alerted to the truck’s crossing and had no “long track” vision to stop the train before it was too late.

The Department of Transportation’s chief traffic engineer Kevin Lacey, claimed that Guy M. Turner Inc. of Greensboro, North Carolina is responsible for this collision, stating that the company never informed Amtrak of its crossing schedule. Lacey stated that Turner Inc. failed to do this because the company had familiarity with the route and had been issued other permits for the same route with similar loads in the past.

While most of the passengers injured in the North Carolina Amtrak crash were treated at hospitals and released by Tuesday, some reports suggest that more serious injuries were also involved.

This incident is at least the third passenger train derailment this year due to a collision with a vehicle stranded on tracks, leading to questions about safety measures in place and training provided for truck drivers about railroad-crossing safety.

Image Credit: Image via Richard Thornton / Shutterstock.com

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