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Amtrak train plows into skidding truck

Tue., July 12, 2011

The tires of a tractor-trailer are seen lying on the side of the train tracks Monday in North Berwick, Maine. (Associated Press)
The tires of a tractor-trailer are seen lying on the side of the train tracks Monday in North Berwick, Maine. (Associated Press)

NORTH BERWICK, Maine – An Amtrak train traveling at 70 mph smashed into a tractor-trailer Monday in a fiery collision that killed the truck driver, injured a half-dozen other people and sent flames more than three stories high, a witness and officials said.

Witnesses reported that safety lights were flashing and gates were down at the intersection when the tractor-trailer crossed into the path of Amtrak’s Downeaster at about 11 a.m., said Police Chief Stephen Peasley. None of the train’s 112 passengers or three crew members suffered life-threatening injuries.

One witness said the tractor-trailer driver slammed on the brakes, Peasley said.

There were about 200 feet of skid marks on Route 4 leading to the impact, and the truck apparently clipped one of the gates before the collision, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Tom Gorski, who works in a building about 50 yards from the intersection, said he heard the approaching locomotive, then a massive boom that shook the building.

“It looked like somebody dropped a bomb. The flames were shooting higher than a three-story house,” Gorski said. “It brings tears to your eyes.”

The northbound train dragged the truck’s cab about 200 yards, then the train continued on before coming to a stop, Deputy Fire Chief Larry Straffin said.

The train’s engineer hopped off the locomotive, separated the burning engine from the passenger cars and moved the engine down the tracks to keep the flames from spreading, Straffin said.

The tractor-trailer was carrying a load of trash, which was strewn in heaping piles alongside the train tracks.

Six people on the train – four passengers and two crew members – suffered injuries, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.


 

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