“It sounded like a bomb,” said witness Leslie Cipriani. “Like, that could have easily been us on the Amtrak. And I feel bad for everybody involved. I really do. People that were going on vacation, or wherever they were going, never expected this to happen.”
Lt. Jeff Gordon of the State Highway Patrol said 25 were taken by bus to the hospital, and no injuries were life-threatening. Gordon said there were 212 passengers.
The northbound No. 80 Carolinian was headed to New York from Charlotte when it collided with a tractor trailer at N.C. 903 and U.S. 301, knocking the train engine on its side and toppling the first two cars. The tractor trailer extended more than 160 feet and straddled the train tracks when hit.
An eyewitness says the tractor-trailer driver was trying to make a difficult right-hand turn. She says the driver jumped out of the truck before the crash.
Charlotte Story, a student at the University of North Carolina who was in the seventh car, said many people in the car were jerked forward at impact. Story’s laptop was thrown across the aisle at impact.
“It was significant; several people hit their heads pretty hard on the seats in front of them,” Story said. “None of the suitcases came down from the overhead compartment but you definitely felt it.”
The Federal Railroad Administration said once the scene of the collision is cleared of emergency personnel, investigators will begin working “to determine the probable cause of how and why this highway-rail grade crossing was fouled.”
“Recent accidents like this one are stark reminders of our shared challenge to both educate the public about grade crossing safety, and to enforce appropriate behavior around railroad operations,” an FRA spokesman said.
The truck was operated by Guy M. Turner, Inc., a Greensboro-based trucking company that specializes in hauling heavy equipment. In a statement, the company said it was aware of the collision and is investigating the incident.
“Guy M. Turner, Inc. is committed to the safety of its employees, customers and the general public,” CFO Jeanette Landreth said. “We do not know the extent of any injuries, but out thoughts and prayers are with any who may be injured in this incident.”
According to federal data, Guy Turner has had vehicles involved in nine crashes and four tows in the past 24 months.
Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.