The driver of a semitrailer that collided with a freight train between Bainville and Culbertson on Tuesday is recovering at a Billings hospital, according to the Montana Highway Patrol.
The Chicago-to-Seattle train was traveling at about 69 mph and had activated its emergency brake, but it struck the semi just behind the cab shortly before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, about 150 feet from U.S. Highway 2, said Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas. The semi was heading from a farm area to the highway, Melonas said.
Trooper Ross Tuggle was at the crash scene Wednesday morning, which he said was still littered with debris and overturned train cars from the crash.
Tuggle said it appeared that the semi driver, Patrick Francis Parker, 56, of Sidney, either didn’t see the train or thought he could beat it across the track, though the trooper has been unable to interview the driver.
The train crew “said it looked like he was going to slow down, then all of a sudden it went right in front of them,” Tuggle said. “It hit right where the truck and trailer meet on the drive axle, basically.
“The trailer is on one side and track and the truck exploded on the other side.”
Tuggle said the cab of the truck stayed intact.
“I’m really surprised he lived through it,” Tuggle said, adding that Parker suffered a few broken ribs and teeth during the collision. Parker is expected to go home Friday, Tuggle said.
There were no serious injuries among the train’s crew, Melonas said. Ten of the train’s 40 cars derailed along with four locomotives, including two that were on their sides. Melonas said about 500 gallons of diesel fuel spilled, but the spill was contained and wasn’t threatening waterways.
The cars were carrying such items as plastics, frozen meats, diapers and washers, some of which spilled. The train also carried small amounts of classified hazardous material, including lighters, adhesives and alcohol, but there were no environmental threats, Melonas said.