An Amtrak train slammed into a tractor-trailer trapped on the tracks while trying to make a difficult left-hand turn Monday, and the conductor and at least 54 others were injured when one of the train’s cars toppled over.
The train, the daily Carolinian, was carrying more than 200 passengers, was traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina to New York when it hit a truck that had been hauling heavy equipment and apparently got stuck on tracks in Halifax County near the Virginia border, said Heather Joyner, communications director of the county's Emergency 911.
It was the third serious train crash in less than two months. Deadly crashes in New York and California in February killed a total of seven people and injured 30.
Amtrak said in a statement it was monitoring the situation and an investigation was ongoing.
"Our concerns are with passengers and crew," the company said on Twitter, noting there were 212 passengers and eight crewmembers on the train at the time of the incident.
One of the troopers escorting the truck from Clayton, North Carolina, to the Virginia border was trying to help the driver negotiate a difficult left-hand turn across the tracks onto a two-lane highway in the town of Halifax, Gordon said. But the 164-foot tractor-trailer combination, longer than half a football field, couldn't navigate it, said Lt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
During the five minutes or so the trooper and driver spent attempting to get the truck turned and off the tracks, there was no indication of an approaching train, Gordon said. When the train appeared, it set off warning flashers and the crossing arms came down as the truck was still straddling the tracks, he said. The train hit the truck shortly afterward, Gordon said.
He said the truck was unable to back off the tracks before the train hit because traffic had backed up on the road behind him.
State transportation officials said 54 of the injured were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries after Monday's crash. They said one had more serious injuries. Details were not immediately available. Among the injured was the train's conductor, Gordon said.
Federal authorities said they believed 62 people were injured. The discrepancy could not be resolved immediately.
Buses took about 170 passengers to Richmond, Virginia, where they could board another train, said state Transportation Department spokesman Mike Charbonneau.
Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Michael J. Cole said the authorized speed for the train is 70 mph, but authorities don't yet know how fast the train was traveling.
Gordon identified the owner of the tractor-trailer as Guy M. Turner Inc. of Greensboro.