Amtrak Derailment From Norfolk Southern Tracks in New Orleans Caused by Big Rig Crash
This video shot by the Times-Picayune describes how the wreck at a private grade crossing in the north Orleans Parish community of Slidell, LA, began when a tractor-trailer entered the tracks in front of the train and ended when the train's engine and several of its passenger cars left the tracks several hundreds yards from the impact site. When the engine derailed, it spilled hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. The fuel then caught fire.
Three rail employees, including conductors and an engineer, suffered injuries, as did the truck driver and at least two passengers. While no one was injured seriously, that outcome seems mostly attributable to luck.
The exact cause of the truck-train crash remains under investigation. One factor sure to be considered is that the tracks ran across the driveway of a factory. The private grade crossing lacked gates and warning lights. Similar mostly unmarked intersections are the sites of hundreds of collisions between trains and vehicles -- as well as pedestrians and bicycle riders -- each year. Within the past 12 months alone, two Virginia (VA) driver have lost their lives after being hit by trains at open-access railroad crossings on private property.
Track owners -- whether NS, as in the New Orleans accident, CSX, as in the two Virginia crashes, or another railroad company -- must work with land and right-of-way owners to make private grade crossings as safe as possible. Corporations and private citizens need to work together to install and maintain gates, warning lights and signs such as crossbucks to prevent crossing tragedies.