SKIPPERS, Va. (AP) — An Amtrak train that travels between North Carolina and New York hit a tractor-trailer Thursday, splitting the trailer in half and leaving the driver with minor injuries, but no passengers or crew members on board were hurt, officials said.
Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said 267 passengers were on the Carolinian, which travels daily between Charlotte and New York City, when it hit the vehicle in Virginia just north of the North Carolina line.
Linda Driver, the owner of Driver Trucking Inc. in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., said Ronnie Allen, who has been working for her company for two years, was waiting to turn at the intersection before the train smashed into it.
A stoplight at the intersection was blinking red, and Allen looked up and down the railroad before crossing and didn't see any trains coming, she said. He wasn't able to enter the roadway because a pickup truck was coming, Linda Driver said.
A Virginia State Trooper told her that her company was not at fault, she said. The driver is shaken up and his knee is hurt, but he wasn't seriously injured. He does not want to speak to the media, she said.
Allen drives that route several times a day, and the intersection is known to be dangerous, Linda Driver said.
"He's a good driver," she said. "This was just something that came out of the blue on him. He'd commented before that this was a bad place."
Donnie Driver, Linda Driver's husband and co-owner of the company, said there used to be additional safety measures at the intersection when the nearby Georgia Pacific plant was open because there were more vehicles on the road.
A yellow sign with flashing lights that would alert drivers that a train was coming no longer works, Donnie Driver said. The sign was partially covered by a black tarp on Thursday.
Lamont Lilly was eating his lunch near the front of the train when he felt a jolt, heard the brakes screech and smelled smoke. Lilly, who was on his way to New York from his home in Durham, said the train came to an abrupt halt, and he could see from his window that the trailer had been split in half.
Hundreds of grade crossing accidents happen each year involving passenger vehicles and tractor trailers, said Bob Chipkevich, who served as the NTSB's director of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations in Washington for nine years and now works as a consultant.
The crash comes about six months after an Amtrak train along the same route slammed into a tractor-trailer that got stuck on the tracks while trying to make a difficult left-hand turn in Halifax, North Carolina, about 15 miles south of Pleasant Hill. One of the cars on that train toppled, and the conductor and at least 54 others were injured.
Two other deadly train crashes in New York and California in February killed a total of seven people and injured 30.
The oversized flatbed trailer involved in the March crash was transporting a modular building wrapped in blue plastic and jammed with electrical equipment, Lt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, said at the time. A trooper escorting the truck was trying to help the driver navigate a difficult turn when the crash happened.
The truck had been unable to back off the tracks before the train hit because traffic had backed up on the road behind the driver, officials said.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Alanna Durkin and Larry O'Dell in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that the crash happened in southern Virginia, near the boundary with North Carolina. Amtrak officials initially said the crash happened in North Carolina, near the boundary with Virginia.