Six people were injured Wednesday when an Amtrak passenger train crashed into a big-rig in Alpaugh, halfway between Visalia and Bakersfield.
• A truck driver stopped at a stop sign just past a railroad crossing and didn’t realize his trailer wasn’t clear of the tracks.
• An Amtrak passenger train slammed into the trailer, pushing it several hundred feet down the tracks.
• The truck spilled 45,000 pounds of potassium chloride.
• The train engineer was hospitalized with a back injury.
A big-rig carrying 45,000 pounds of non-toxic potassium chloride was traveling eastbound on Avenue 56 just before the accident. The driver stopped at a stop sign just beyond the tracks at Highway 43.
The tractor was past the crossing but the driver apparently did not realize that part of the trailer was still on the tracks, Tulare County fire captain Larry Stucker said.
A northbound Amtrak passenger train with 84 passengers on board came barreling down the tracks toward the big-rig. The train’s engineer saw the trailer on the tracks and blasted his horn to warn the driver. The driver did not move, ostensibly because he thought his rig was clear of the tracks.
The train slammed into the truck, pushing the trailer several hundred feet, according to an ABC News report. The entire load of potassium chloride was spilled all over the roadway.
News reports didn’t agree on how many people suffered minor injuries in the accident. Some reports indicated that as few as two people were injured, while other accounts stated that six were hurt.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told ABC News the train’s engineer was taken to a hospital to be treated for a possible back injury. The truck driver did not report any injuries.
Both the truck and the train were damaged. Passengers were taken by bus to Wasco, where they boarded another northbound train.
Officials closed the road to investigate and clean the chemical spill. California Highway Patrol officer Tom Nevarez said some of the bags were intact on the pallets. Workers were lifting the pallets and cleaning those bags. The rest of the powdery mess had to be scooped up and taken off of the roadway.
The CHP reopened the road shortly before 2:30 p.m., Neverez said.
The accident remains under investigation.
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