Truck Turned Train Wreckby Jana Ritter - Published: 10/29/2014
Truck driver Jeffrey Hatfield is being called the luckiest man in Indiana after walking away from an accident that turned his heavy-duty cement carrying semi-truck into a two-piece train wreck. On Tuesday morning, a Chicago-bound Amtrak train struck Hatfield’s truck at a northwestern Indiana crossing when he drove across the tracks, right in the train’s path. "I went across the tracks, then I seen that train coming, and it was too late. That's about it," said Hatfield.
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That wasn’t it for his truck or the passengers of the train though. The collision caused powdery cement to fill the air and while Hatfield and his cab spun about 90 degrees in one direction, the back of his trailer spun 90 degrees in the opposite direction. The train finally came to a stop 579 feet from the spot of the collision, leaving fourteen passengers and crew members injured, and three passenger cars completely coated in cement powder. Chief Deputy A.J. Alletto of the White County Sheriff's Department said eight people were taken to hospitals but nobody suffered serious injuries.
Chief Deputy Alletto also confirmed the 55-year-old truck driver’s explanation that he had miscalculated his timing when he pulled onto tracks into the path of the Amtrak. "He said he looked to the south, where the train was, and he thought he had plenty of time to get across the tracks. But obviously he did not," Alletto said.
Local officials and crews spent the rest of the day cleaning up the cement powder and the wreckage, which was completely removed by Tuesday evening. Had the spilled cement solidified along the tracks it would have been a major problem but Alletto said the cement was not hazardous material and they managed to clear it out in time.
The Hoosier State line was carrying 56 passengers and three crew members at the time of the wreck. The train had just picked up passengers at Lafayette, (its second stop after leaving Indianapolis), and had two more stops before reaching Chicago. The remaining passengers that were stranded by the incident later resumed their trip to Chicago on chartered buses.
Ironically the engineer on the train Tuesday, was also the same engineer working the train during the last Amtrak accident in White County, which occurred on June 12, 2013. The train had struck a tractor towing a tank of anhydrous ammonia, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured in that accident either.
It is still unknown if the cement truck driver is going to be charged for Tuesday’s accident.What do you think?