Friday’s incident at railroad crossing 2nd in less than a year |

Friday’s incident at railroad crossing 2nd in less than a year

Steve Ranson
Tribune news service

FALLON, Nev. – Friday’s fiery collision between an Amtrak passenger train and a semi-truck marks the second time in less than a year that the California Zephyr and a big rig have been involved in an incident at the same crossing on U.S. Highway 95 about 35 miles north of Fallon.

Six people were killed in Friday’s collision, while five are still unaccounted. The collision engulfed two double-deck cars in flames and caused heavy smoke damage to a third.

However, the Sept. 14, 2010, accident that occurred on a Tuesday morning shortly before 7 a.m. did not result in either deaths or injuries to crew and passengers.

The Churchill County Sheriff’s Office reported the tractor-trailer was traveling southbound and went through the crossing arm. Unlike last week’s accident where the truck rammed into the train, the vehicle in September’s incident stopped before it hit the train.

Union Pacific Railroad officials also responded to the scene as did the Nevada Highway Patrol.

According to the Nevada Highway Report, the driver of the 2005 Kenworth tractor was pulling a flatbed trailer loaded with green plastic pipe. The NHP said the crossing bar and signal lights were activated before the train approached the crossing.

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The weather at the time was clear with temperatures in the lower 50s.

David Leroy Fife, 56, of Shelley Idaho, applied his brakes, causing him to steer to the right and hit a guardrail. He then smashed into one of the large railroad sign towers before his truck stopped short of the tracks.

“Debris scattered from the sign tower and the crossing guard bar and struck three of the passing train cars,” said NHP Trooper Chuck Allen.

Allen said the NHP cited Fyfe for failing to use due care. One lane of the highway was blocked for several hours, and Allen said temporary traffic control was provided by the Nevada Department of Transportation.

” There was minor damage to the train cars, and the truck tractor had to be towed from the scene as it sustained significant damage,” Allen said.

Also, the California Zephyr was on time in September due to arrive in Reno at 8:36 a.m. Friday’s train, though, was more than four hours late when the accident occurred at about 11:30 a.m. The California Zephyr operates daily from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif.

“Train five of the 24th (June 24) was significantly delayed due to a detour through Omaha as a result of the recent flooding,” said Amtrak spokesman Clifford Cole, explaining the discrepancy in time when the two incidences happened.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday he doesn’t know if his agency was involved with the investigation. He said the NTSB usually doesn’t investigate a train accident unless there is loss of life or serious damage done to the cars or engine.