(Palmetto, Louisiana – September 16, 2014)
The driver of a dirt-hauling dump truck was badly shaken, but walked away with his life and limbs intact after his vehicle and a Union Pacific freight train crossed paths at the non-gated crossing of Louisiana Highway 360 and UPRR tracks in Palmetto, LA at about 7:30 A.M. Tuesday morning.
The unidentified truck driver was removed from the scene by rescue workers after he freed himself from the truck which toppled onto its side after the collision.
City of Palmetto employee Merrick Gautreaux reported that he heard a loud bang “like when you hit sheet metal together” when the locomotive struck the loaded truck.
Although firefighters from the Palmetto Volunteer Fire Dept. were at first concerned that leaking liquid could be diesel fuel, it was later determined to be air conditioner fluid.
Even though the railroad and the grade crossings intersecting with it were tied up for a few hours, Union Pacific workers on the scene still refused to speak to the news media.
Although the crossing of Union Pacific rails and Louisiana Highway 360 was equipped with flashing light signals, which were destroyed in the crash, it lacked the crossing gates which would have provided a key element to prevention of the accident. According to Federal Railroad Administration documents, a dozen trains use the crossing daily at a top allowable speed of 60 mph.
St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Department and Louisiana State Police officers both responded to the scene.