(Buffalo, New York – July 23, 2015)
A CSX train shoving three freight cars through the dangerous and unguarded Ganson Street grade crossing near the General Mills plant in Buffalo, NY struck a natural gas-powered semi trailer truck, which exploded upon impact, sending both the train’s conductor and the truck driver to Erie County Medical Center just before 10 AM EDT Tuesday.
“The conductor of the train (a switching movement, and who was probably riding on the rear of the forward freight car instead of being on the ground and flagging the signless, unsignalized grade crossing) received approximately 18 per cent burns to his body and the tractor trailer driver also had some burns and was treated at the scene” Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield told Time-Warner Cable News Reporter Angela Christoforos, adding that “Both of them have been transported to ECMC at this time and are being treated there.”
Commissioner Whitfield told WBFO’s Michael Mroziak that “One of the (truck’s natural gas) cylinders did explode upon impact, causing the fire. The other two cylinders were effectively cooled by Buffalo Fire and did not explode or catch fire.”
A security surveillance camera at a nearby business caught scene as the unsuspecting trucker attempted to cross in front of the train he apparently never saw nor heard. Witness Fred Berent told TWC News that “It felt like a truck hit the building – a loud explosion.”
Federal Railroad Administration records say that the collision was the second to occur at the crossing, which accommodates about a half-dozen CSX switching trains crossing Ganson Street daily at a top allowable speed of 10 mph. The crossing lacks any form of active warning devices, such as lights and gates, which could have prevented this accident.
Three blocks away in his home, Flavio Torres Rodreges told CBS that the blast was “Real loud, and I heard like the building was shaking.”
Controversy has been rampant since Buffalo commercial interests are in the process of developing former warehouse properties into a massive “RiverWorks” hockey, entertainment and recreation complex scheduled to open later this year. The Buffalo News reported Wednesday that “David Tincher, general manager of the Buffalo General Mills plant, appeared to have predicted the dangers of traffic interaction in late 2013, when he testified before the Buffalo Planning Board,” as the group considered approval of the plans to build the complex. “Industrial operations next to a busy entertainment venue lead to frustration by all, traffic delays, confusion and more,” Tincher told the Board, adding that “We are very concerned about public safety and our own employee safety that could be jeopardized with increased congestion along the Ganson and Michigan Street intersection.”
A tour bus loaded with history buffs viewing the historic grain elevators and water transportation shipping lanes along the Buffalo River Tuesday morning had a ringside view of the crash. “We were crossing the Michigan Avenue Bridge and we stopped for a moment, and at that instant, we heard an explosion,” tour bus passenger Larry Cohen told Ms. Habuda. “He added that over 50 people were on board the bus, and that the explosion was only a couple of hundred feet away from them.” As we beared left onto Ganson Street, with General Mills on the right, we saw a billow of smoke, and flames engulfing the box car and truck cab.”