A Turlock Irrigation District truck out doing work Thursday morning was struck by an Amtrak passenger train, but what could have been a calamity was avoided due to some quick maneuvering by the driver of the truck.
No injuries were reported by the driver, the train crew, or the 44 passengers on board. However, both the TID truck and the train sustained significant damage as a result of the collision.
“When you hear about an accident with a train, you think the worst, but lucky in this case, everyone was o.k.,” said Michelle Reimers, spokesperson for TID. “It was just a matter of really, really bad timing.”
Around 10:30 a.m. Thursday two TID vehicles, a bucket truck and a digger truck, were traveling along a dirt road that runs parallel to Santa Fe Road and the railroad tracks, about a quarter of a mile south of the East Avenue intersection.
The two vehicles had kicked up a fair amount of dust and the visibility was limited when they reached a private railroad crossing, Reimers said. There is also a curve in the tracks, which Reimers said makes it difficult to see an approaching train.
The bucket truck passed over the tracks and the digger truck was following, when suddenly the driver caught sight of the oncoming train bearing down on him.
The driver quickly threw the truck into reverse and was in the process of backing up when the train clipped the front of the TID truck.
The train was traveling at an approximate speed of 85 mph when the collision occurred.
The truck had major damage to the front end, Reimers said.
The train had damage to the hoses and ladders, said Lena Kent, a spokesperson for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, whose police department conducted an investigation into the accident.
Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman said the train had significant damage to the side opposite of the impact point and that a freight locomotive had to be brought down the tracks to pull the four cars and locomotive of the Amtrak train.
A digger truck is used by TID to dig the holes for power poles and the truck was returning from a work site, Reimers said.
The accident happened at a private railroad crossing, which is not required to have crossing arms, but does have a posted railroad crossing sign commonly referred to as a crossbuck.
Magliari said Amtrak was very happy that none of its crew and passengers were injured and reiterated the need for caution around railroad tracks.
“These kinds of incidences are completely avoidable if people would heed the warning signs around them,” Magliari said.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.