Jose’ Casares, the driver of a pickup truck and his 3-month-old bull mastiff puppy, Zeus, were both seriously injured Tuesday morning when their southbound pickup was struck by an eastbound San Joaquin Valley Railroad freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Hayes Street and SJVRR tracks Tuesday morning about 10:30 A.M.
The intersection of Hayes and the SJVRR is “guarded” only by passive railroad crossbuck signs, lacking any form of automatic (lights, bells or gates) protective devices, and the driver may never have seen or heard the approaching train.
“I thought we were going to be calling the coroner on this call,” said Fresno Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo, “But I’m glad we didn’t.”
The train carried the two, trapped in their rapidly-destructing pickup, about 300 yards down the track before stopping, and Fresno firefighters worked for 45 minutes with the “jaws of life” to free both human and animal victims.
The driver was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where he was admitted in critical condition, while Fresno Animal Control took Zeus to Veterinary Emergency Services animal hospital, where he underwent extensive surgery for a broken leg, and may eventually lose a toe.
VES doctors say the puppy will recover, but that initial treatment cost his owner about $12,000, and does not count additional surgery Zeus will need. Therefore, an account has been set up for donations to help with the cost of his care through Bank of the Sierra under the name of “Injured Mastiff Fund.”
The SJVRR is one of 43 regional and short line railroads owned and operated by the RailAmerica rail conglomerate, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.