(Amite, Louisiana – July 14, 2014)
The Diamond B Construction crossing of the old Illinois Central (now Canadian National) Railroad, which has accommodated passenger trains long before the inception of Amtrak, qualifies as both dangerous and unguarded and proved itself again Monday afternoon at about 1:30 P.M. CDT when Amtrak’s “City of New Orleans” train with 193 passengers on board collided with an 18-wheeler dump truck loaded with asphalt, seriously injuring the truck driver and putting the safety of those on the train in peril.
Monday’s accident was the fifth to occur at the intersection since 1996 according to Federal Railroad Administration records, which say the crossing has three fatalities and three non-fatal injuries. Three of those incidents have involved Amtrak trains, which cross there twice daily at a top allowable speed of 79 mph. Altogether, a dozen trains cross there each day, with motorists risking their lives at the crossing which does not have any active warning devices, such as lights and gates. It is virtually certain that lights and gates would have prevented this tragedy and the many that occurred before it. Both Canadian National and Operation Lifesaver know lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%
The as-yet unidentified driver had the truck he was driving struck on the driver’s side, ejecting the victim and necessitating emergency responders to transport him to a nearby hospital where he was admitted in stable condition.
Tangipahoa Parish Fire District #1 Chief Bruce Cutrer told WWL-TV Eyewitness News Reporter Ashley Rodrigue that “We had a significant flash fire from damage to the truck that was crossing, (as well as) significant damage to the engine of the train and other parts of the train,” adding that “We had a flash fire on the east side of the train where the diesel storage (fuel tanks) were.”
Ricky Rogers, who lives adjacent to the crash site, was among those who went to the scene to provide whatever aid they could to the temporarily-stranded passengers, some of whom were from international points such as Ireland and Australia. “Most of them were alright,” he told WWL-TV’s Rodrigue, but added that “They were very frightened by the shaking of the train and the gas (diesel fuel) leak and everything.”
Four buses provided by the Tangipahoa Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness transported the passengers to New Orleans, LA, the train’s ultimate destination.