(Sebastian, Texas — June 11, 2015)
The driver of a semi-trailer tank truck loaded with liquid nitrogen and his 10-year-old son were both hospitalized in unknown condition after they attempted to cross Union Pacific Railroad tracks eastbound on the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Orphanage Road just south of Sebastian, TX. The tank truck was struck and dragged an estimated half-mile by a northbound UPRR freight train. The train was one of about 10 which travel that rail corridor daily at a maximum allowable speed of 49 mph, according to Federal Railroad Administration sources.
The truck’s cargo of urea ammonium nitrate had just been unloaded at Sanders Chemical, near the site of the accident, but still created a serious situation and HM emergency crews were rushed to the scene as law enforcement closed the nearby highway in both directions. The trailer still held what was described as a “residual amount,” some of which seeped out of the nozzles and hoses used to unload the trailer.
Orphanage Road terminates at Business U.S. Highway 77, which parallels UPRR tracks only a few feet east of the intersection, and has an extremely circuitous and angled approach to the crossing, making passage more difficult for drivers of 18-wheelers, especially when trains are coming from the cab’s passenger side. The 10-year-old boy’s seated position bore the main force of the brunt collision.
The train, with the tank and its tractor impaled upon the nose of the locomotive, came to a stop in a heavily wooded area some distance south of the non-signalized crossing. It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with lights and gates, this accident would not have happened. Both Union Pacific and Operation Lifesaver 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%.
Texas Dept. of Public Safety Highway Patrol Sgt. Johnny Hernandez said the two victims, who were not as yet identified by name, suffered serious injuries including multiple broken bones and were rushed to an area hospital.