(Euless, Texas – August 25, 2018)
Two people are dead and 41 crew and passengers were injured Saturday just after Noon when a semi-trailer truck loaded with scrap heavy construction materials collided with a Trinity Railway Express passenger train in the Fort Worth, TX area.
The victims in the semi-truck were identified Sunday as Arnell Toliver, 49, of Dallas, TX, and Charlene Alexander, 50, of Denton, TX. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Fort Worth Police listed the truck’s owner as Euvali Salas, but gave no address.
The semi, which was one of a large number of similar scrap haulers working major construction projects in Arlington, TX, exploded upon impact and continued to burn, with both occupants still in the cab. Eventually fire departments from three adjacent communities responded to the tragedy at the convergence of Arlington, Euless and Fort Worth. The wreck site was only a few yards in the city of Fort Worth at the gated and signalized, but questionably designed crossing of Calloway Cemetery Road and TRE railroad tracks.
The train’s locomotive engineer was among the injured taken to Arlington Memorial Texas Health Hospital, where the five most seriously injured, among whom two in critical condition, were taken. Meanwhile, another four injured passengers were taken to Hurst-Euless-Bedford Texas Health, and two others went to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. The remaining 30 injured passengers were treated at the scene.
Many of the windows along the lower deck of the bi-level passenger cars were blown out, creating some of the injuries. Passenger Wilhelmina Scott said that there was a loud “bang” or “boom”, and fire erupted from the lower deck of her car. “Dirt came in, the cars started shaking. There was a lot of confusion and panic,” she told DFW CBS Channel 11.
Another passenger who was on board with his entire family was Brandon Haynes, who also heard “A loud boom.” He told WFAA-TV that “Glass shattered, both sides of the train started shaking,” and “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a fireball, but it went away.”
The rail route not only carries TRE trains, but also accommodates Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and Amtrak trains, a total of 79 daily trains which can operate at a maximum speed of 79 mph. Saturday’s train was westbound when it struck the semi-truck.
The tracks and crossing are owned and maintained by the city transit agencies (Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Fort Worth Transit Authority, and operated under contract by the Herzog Transit Services, Inc., of St. Joseph, MO. TRE links the two major North Texas metropolises of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Saturday’s tragic event was not the crossing’s first fatality, as one was suffered in 2013, and eight previous accidents had also resulted in three other non-fatal injuries.