Monday, July 11, 2011

Breaking News! Amtrak Downeaster collides with tractor-trailer

This morning at about 11:00 am Amtrak's Downeaster, which runs multiple times daily between Boston and Portland, was traveling at a smooth 70mph when it collided with a tractor-trailer at an at-grade crossing on Route 4 in North Berwick Maine. The crash left the driver of the tractor-trailer dead, a half dozen train passengers injured, and a locomotive scorched.

Downeaster Loco #821 at North Station 
Loco after crash can't even tell this is part of Amtrak fleet
The train had 112 passengers and three crew members onboard when it collided with the truck. Fortunately, no life threatening injuries were reported. This is thanks to the Amtrak engineer's quick thinking. Right after the train hit the truck the engineer jumped out of the burning locomotive and separated it from the four passenger coaches. He then proceeded to get back in to the locomotive so he could move it a safe distance away from the coaches. The fire, which left the locomotive gutted and charred was said to be bellowing at least three stories high. One witness stated that "It looked like somebody dropped a bomb. The flames were shooting higher than a three-story house... it brings tears to your eyes".

A few witnesses did reported that the flashing lights and crossing gates at the grade crossing on Route 4 were working at the time of the crash but the tractor trailer did not stop on time. According to Maine officials there were about 200 feet of skid marks leading up to the crossing and one of the gates was clipped by the trailer. The driver of the tractor-trailer was Peter Barnum, 35, of Farmington, NH, and he was driving for Triumvirate Environmental. His trailer was full of trash that was being brought to the incinerator in Biddeford Maine.

The passenger coach 
This accident comes at a time when both companies have already seen their share recent of incidences. Triumvirate which operates out of Somerville MA had a recent incident when one of their drivers had a heart attack while driving his tractor-trailor and killed four people. Amtrak had to deal with a similar incident last month when a driver of a semi-trailer drove into the side of a passenger train in Nevada killing six people. Amtrak is currently suing that trucking company.

Amtrak officials have assured passengers that train travel is still extremely safe. The Downeaster is expected to continue it regularly scheduled departures starting tonight when its 11:20 p.m. train departs north station. No delays are expected for tomorrows morning rush.


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