(Fort Lupton, Colorado – January 4, 2013)
The 55-year-old driver of a four-door, extended cab Toyota Tundra pickup truck was killed instantly at about 4:55 A.M. Friday morning at the dangerous and unguarded rural crossing of Weld County Road 8 and Union Pacific Railroad tracks when his truck was struck by the three-locomotive, 42-car northbound UPRR freight train traveling at 55 mph, carried 75 yards down the track, where it broke in half and was dragged another 125 yards before coming to a halt at the County Road 8 ½ crossing. The driver, Francisco Ardon of Aurora, CO, was ejected from the truck’s cab on impact, and both halves of the truck burst into flames after the train stopped.
Fort Lupton firefighters responded first to the locomotives, stopped at CR 8 ½, and spotting the fully engulfed pickup cab 125 yards down the track, raced to the spot, extinguished the blazing cab, and then returned to the locomotive to fight the fire burning on the truck bed, implanted upon the lead locomotive’s snowplow.
Fort Lupton police spokesman Sgt. William VanArsdale said that the CR 8/UPRR crossing “has a stop sign and cross buck signs, but it doesn’t have the automatic gates, bells or whistles, that kind of thing.” The FLPD spokesman added in regard to the victim that “From what it appears, he was just driving down the street. He did not appear to be speeding or racing the train.”
The crossing, protected only by passive signage, accommodates 20 trains, including a pair of Amtrak passenger operations, daily at a top speed of 79 mph across a single main line track. The fatality was the third accident recorded at the crossing, the earlier two having resulted in two non-fatal injuries, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.