(North Zulch, Texas – March 18, 2013)
The driver of an 18-wheeler loaded with crates of live chickens being transported for slaughter by Sanderson Farms of Mississippi collided with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of BNSF rails and Old Reservoir Road near North Zulch, TX Monday night, derailing the train’s four locomotives and 11 freight cars, sending the semi driver to a hospital, and closing the major central Texas north-south artery FM 39, as well as other roads, to vehicular traffic.
The Old Reservoir Road/BNSF intersection is equipped only with a single, passive railroad crossbuck sign, and has none of the active protective devices (flashing lights, bells or crossing gates) that railroad sources have said could prevent over 90% of accidents such as occurred Monday. Daily averages of nine trains traverse the crossing at a top allowable speed of 40 mph.
The trucker was transported in stable condition to a local hospital, treated and released Tuesday. The 10,000 chickens, meanwhile, did not fare as well. Half of the birds died in the collision, while the other 5,000 were loaded aboard another truck and transported to a chicken processing facility in College Station, TX where, even though they had survived the horrendous experience of a truck/train crossing collision, their fate was to become chicken nuggets, soup or filets.
Texas Dept. of Public Safety spokesman Jimmy Morgan said it was unclear Monday night what led to the accident, but added that the derailed cars were not carrying any hazardous materials. It must have slipped his mind that an estimated 24,000 gallons of lubricating oil spilled onto and was partially absorbed by the soil surrounding the derailment site. Maybe the Environmental Protection Agency or the Texas Water Resources Dept. have tolerance standards for lube oil.