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Coast Starlight derailed after collision with truck

  : Friday, November 05, 1999
An Amtrak train collided with a truck on a crossing yesterday (4 November) derailing 10 passenger

Coast Starlight ®
AMTRAK®

cars.

In the third of such incidents at the crossing, the northbound Coast Starlight train travelling between Los Angeles and Seattle collided with the back of a tractor-trailer. The crossing is on a private road leading to a pallet factory near Salinas, California.

The 12-car train, headed by two locomotives was travellng at about 50mph when the collision occurred. The trailer, loaded with pallets was destroyed, but the cab was undamaged. The driver escaped injury. Both locomotives and 10 of the passenger cars were derailed and came to rest on the hard shoulder of US 10. Fifteen passengers and crew were slightly injured, a number of them requiring hospital treatment.

The truck had just left the factory of Valley Pallet Recyclers and was heading for Modesto. The driver is reported to have admitted trying to "beat the train". He said "I saw the light coming, I said to myself that I could make it, but it came too fast".

An investigation into the accident is to be mounted by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Highway Patrol and Amtrak.

Automatic lights and gates too expensive
Two truck-train collisions had already occurred at the crossing. In May, in separate incidents, 2 truck drivers thought they could beat trains. On each occasion, their vehicles were struck by the trains.

Valley Pallet Recyclers, owners of the road had reached an agreement with the Union Pacific which owns the rail line to install automatic gates and warning lights at the crossing. However, an intital estimate of the cost was more than doubled by the railroad company and the project has become stalled.

However, even if the warning system had been in place, it is no guarantee that the accident would have been prevented. Eric Jacobsen, president of the California chapter of Operation Lifesaver said `"California really has a lot of automated devices at rail crossings, and you still get people who are going to go ahead and do what they're going to do"
Web sources:
Train signal talks had stalled
San Jose Mercury 06 Nov 99
Big Rig Driver Allegedly Tries to Beat Train; 12 Cars Derail
LA Times 05 Nov 99
Double-decker Amtrak train derails
Nando Times 05 Nov 99
Train hits truck and derails near Salinas
SF Gate 05 Nov 99
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This file last updated: Saturday, 19-Feb-2000 21:01:24 EST
Copyright © David Fry 1999

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