By Maria-Jose Subiria
A man driving an industrial truck Wednesday morning allegedly tried to beat an on-coming train across the railroad tracks on Highway 42, at Rockcut Road in Conley.
He didn't succeed.
According to Officer Otis Willis, III, a spokesman for the Clayton County Police Department, and Susan Terpay, a spokesperson for Norfolk Southern Railway, the train collided with the truck in Clayton County, and pushed it about four-tenths of a mile, across the county line, into DeKalb County.
"Witnesses saw the truck trying to go around [the railroad crossing arm], and noticed the train was coming," Officer Willis said. "He [driver] braced for impact." Willis said that, according to the witnesses, the impact from the collision caused the industrial truck to explode and catch on fire.
"It [train] separated the truck [cab] from the bed," said Landry Merkison, battalion chief for Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services. "The cab, from the truck, was pushed about a quarter of a mile, and erupted into flames."
Merkison said it took firefighters a few minutes to extinguish the flames. The driver sustained second-degree burns to the upper half of his body, and was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, in Atlanta, added Merkison.
Willis said the driver also received a couple of scrapes from the collision, though he did not have any life-threatening injuries. Police did not immediately identify the driver on Wednesday.
Terpay said the two individuals operating the 64-car, Norfolk Southern grain train did not suffer any injuries. She said all 64 cars of the train were empty at the time of the incident.
Willis added that no one else was injured in the crash.
According to Terpay, the train was traveling northbound at approximately 10:10 a.m., Wednesday when the collision occurred. "A train cannot stop like a car can," explained Terpay. "It takes anywhere from a half mile, to a mile, to stop when the emergency brakes are applied."
Terpay said there was no damage to the railroad tracks, but that she could not disclose information about the damage the train may have received from the impact.
Merkison, however, said the collision caused some "cosmetic damage" to the front of the train.
Terpay added that there was damage to some of the signals at the crossing on Highway 42 at Rockcut Road. She said the company brought in equipment used for heavy lifting to remove the truck from the tracks, around 2 p.m.
"We [Norfolk Southern] operate through there [Clayton County]," said Terpay. "Those are our tracks."
In a phone interview after the collision, Officer Willis emphasized that Clayton County Police want people to respect railroad crossing arms, when they come down. The driver of the truck, he said, will receive a couple of citations.
Merkison added that the situation could have been a whole lot worse. "Anytime you can walk away from that, you are a very lucky individual," he said.