US 301 reopened after Amtrak crash in Halifax
Posted March 10, 2015
Halifax, N.C. — Crews reopened U.S. Highway 301 early Tuesday, about 18 hours after an Amtrak train slammed into a tractor-trailer at a crossing in rural Halifax County.
Fifty-five of the 212 passengers aboard the Carolinian No. 80 suffered minor injuries in the accident, which occurred at the intersection of U.S. 301 and N.C. Highway 903, about 30 miles north of Rocky Mount. It was unclear whether any of the eight crew members were injured.
The truck was hauling an electrical building, and the driver, John Devin Black of Claremont, was trying to make a left turn on to U.S. 301 but needed more room to clear the track. While trying to back up, signals alerted that a train was approaching, but Black wasn't able to move out of the way in time.
Black was able to get out of the truck ahead of the crash and wasn't injured.
Gerald Wright, a homeowner who lives near the intersection, said he’s watched many big rigs struggle to make the turn.
“They have difficulty making the turn because it’s narrow, and they’d back up and pull forward and back up,” he said. “It’s just too short of turn for a long trailer to make.”
The force of the impact derailed the locomotive and baggage car and sent debris flying. The train's engine was on its side while the other cars remained upright.
The Halifax County Sheriff's Office, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the state Department of Transportation are investigating the accident along with Amtrak. The Highway Patrol said troopers don't expect to file any charges in the case.
A spokesman with the DOT said the agency will consider the possibility of changes for rigs coming through the intersection, but that won't be examined until the investigation is completed.
The truck belongs to Guy M. Turner Inc., an industrial transport specialist based in Greensboro. The company has a better-than-average safety record, according to public documents. It had fewer trucks and drivers taken out of service during inspections than the national average.
Crews were working early Tuesday on getting a stop-arm back in place at the rail crossing and testing it before reopening N.C. 903, which was still closed at noon. They were also working to remove the electrical building. The train cars have been removed.
The train was headed from Charlotte to New York when the crash occurred, and buses picked up uninjured passengers so they could get to their destinations. Passengers scheduled to travel between Raleigh and Richmond via Amtrak on Tuesday will be transported by chartered buses.
Amtrak has set up a phone number for people with questions about family and friends who were aboard the train. The number is 800-523-9101.