(Coleman, Texas – August 2, 2012)
An Oklahoma trucker died Thursday evening after his 18-wheeler cattle truck was struck, impaled on the nose of the locomotive, and dragged an estimated 600 feet by a 50-car westbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Frio Street and BNSF tracks at the edge of Coleman, TX.
Vergel Dewayne Birmingham, driving a load of 30 cattle northbound in a truck owned by Ellison Carter Trucking of Santo, TX, was rescued from the remains of his truck tractor by two witnesses just before it erupted in flames. The fire and black smoke could be seen for miles.
The victim was taken to the Coleman County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead by Dr. John Horner at 7:37 P.M.
The Frio Street/BNSF crossing has no active protective systems such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates, instead relying totally upon a pair of standard, passive railroad crossbuck signs to “protect” the driving public from any of the estimated 14 trains which traverse the crossing daily at speeds of up to 55 mph.
According to Federal Railroad Administration records, Thursday’s tragedy was the third collision and the first fatality at the crossing. No word was issued in regard to the fate of the 30 head of cattle being transported in the truck’s semi-trailer.
Among the responders to the tragic accident were the Coleman Police Dept., Texas Dept. of Public Safety, Coleman Fire Dept., Coleman County Sheriff’s Office and Coleman EMS.