(Medina Township, Michigan – May 22, 2016)
A 20-year-old Pioneer, OH man was in serious condition at a Toledo hospital Sunday after the tank truck he was driving was struck by a freight train at about 4:15 P.M., EDT. The truck driver was, carrying a load of liquid manure to a farm field south of the tracks when he was struck by a westbound 86-car train pulled by a Canadian Pacific locomotive, which derailed as a result of the crash. The collision occurred at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Indiana & Ohio Railway tracks and Mulberry Road near Morenci, MI in Medina Township of Lenawee County.
The train, one of what Federal Railroad Administration information say is one of a daily average of eight freight trains, was said to be operating at 50 mph, according to Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Keith Gorney. According to the FRA, this section of track is restricted to a maximum speed of 49 mph.
The victim, unidentified by name, was part of an agricultural crew spreading the organic fertilizer across a field bordering the tracks to the south, and the public crossing lacks any form of active warning devices, such as lights and gates, to warn motorists of oncoming trains. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Both I&O Railway and Operation Lifesaver all know that 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%.
Firefighters from two community fire departments battled what was described by neighboring resident Ed Perritt, as a “fireball”, adding that It was like the tracks were on fire” as the train carried and dismembered the tank truck, part of which was wedged below the locomotive, along a quarter-mile stretch of railroad as it spread between 200 and 300 gallons of diesel fuel and hydraulic fluid down the tracks, most of which ignited.
In a statement to Daily Telegram News Editor David Panlan, Ed Perritt also stated that both his 18-year-old son, Mitch Storrs, and his wife, Michelle Perritt, made separate calls to 911 to report the occurrence and subsequently the location of the fire and the victim, as the stopped train blocked access to the scene along Ranger Road through the Mulberry Road crossing from the south. Perritt first attempted to fight the flames with a small, home kitchen fire extinguisher, while a member of the victim’s crew crawled across the stopped rail cars to rescue him from the spreading flames, which engulfed the truck tractor’s cab.
Morenci Fire Chief Brad Lonis told The Daily Telegraph that the scene represented a “complex” situation for firefighters and first responders “between having a very critical patient, a lot of fire, a lot of diesel fuel on the ground and a locomotive on fire a quarter-mile down the track.”
The Indiana & Ohio Railway is a short line railroad, one of 114 regional and short line railroads operating 13,000 miles of track in 41 US states and four Canadian provinces, by the Darien, CT-headquartered Genesee & Wyoming railroad conglomerate.