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Amtrak train hits flatbed truck at NC-Va line

Posted September 10, 2015

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— A northbound Amtrak train struck a tractor-trailer at the North Carolina-Virginia border on Thursday afternoon, authorities said Thursday.

The Carolinian, which runs between Charlotte and New York, hit the truck at 12:52 p.m. as the train was crossing from Northampton County into Greensville County, Va. The crash occurred at a crossing less than a tenth of a mile into Virginia at a crossing that serves a Georgia-Pacific plant.

None of the 267 passengers aboard the train or crew members was hurt. No one in the flatbed truck was hurt either.

Wilma Conway of Cary, who was on the train, said she heard a bang, and the train quickly came to a stop.

"We weren't going very fast," Conway said in a telephone interview. "Right along side of us is 'Welcome to Virginia,' so the train is straddling Virginia and North Carolina."

Donnie Driver, whose Roanoke Rapids company owns the flatbed truck, said his driver had just dropped a load of plywood at the Georgia Pacific plant and didn't know a train was approaching. The driver told him the crossing arms weren't down, and no signal lights were flashing, Driver said.

The driver stopped at U.S. Highway 301, which runs parallel to the rail line, to allow a car to pass, and the train slammed into the flatbed, splitting it in two, before he could turn on to the highway, Driver said.

"It was a terrible mess. The trailer was just cut right in half," Driver said. "I'm just glad nobody was hurt."

"That's my major concern, that no one gets hurt," said his wife, Linda Driver. "You can replace the stuff, but you can't replace the life."

Investigators checked to make sure the crossing arms and signals were working properly, and Linda Driver said safety officials also need to look at the design of the intersection.

"They need to fix that light," she said, noting that it flashes red for the crossing and doesn't stop traffic on U.S. 301.

"If that light stopped traffic the other way and the driver could stop on this side (of the tracks) and then ease on out when the light turned green because he'd have the right of way, I think that might (improve things)," she said.

The train stayed at the crash site for about three hours after the crash as Amtrak inspectors checked the damage to the engine, before the Carolinian resumed its northward trip.

In March, a Carolinian train hit a tractor-trailer stuck on the tracks near Halifax, about 20 miles from the site of Thursday's crash. Fifty-five passengers were injured in that crash.


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