A Detroit firefighter's decision to park a $600,000 ladder truck on train tracks while responding to a traffic accident is under investigation after an Amtrak train slammed into it late Monday morning. One firefighter was treated and released at a metro Detroit hospital after he tried to drive the truck — with No. 13 on its side — off the tracks before it was struck about 11:50 a.m. by the westbound train, officials said.
Another firefighter initially parked the truck there in order to wash away gas puddled on the street from an earlier accident between a car and a flatbed trailer near the tracks at Lonyo and John Kronk. Authorities declined to identify either firefighter.
“I'm very upset,” Executive Fire Commissioner James Mack said as he stood in front of the mangled ladder truck. “I think about the citizens when I've got a fire truck out of service. This is their fire truck. They pay for it.”
Mack said no one was taken off duty after the accident, but the cause is under investigation.
Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, said Mack should be relieved no one was hurt.
“That's our No. 1 concern,” he said.
McNamara said the union will monitor the investigation and the department's response.
“We're not going to knee-jerk react,” he said.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said it appears all the warning devices at the intersection — lights, bells and gates — were operating properly at the time of the collision.
“It certainly is unusual for an emergency vehicle to be in the path of one of our trains,” he said.
Bob McLean, 41, of Redford Township, who was driving nearby, said he saw the train hit the back of the ladder truck, violently pushing it off the tracks and into a pole.
“They couldn't move it, and the train just crunched it,” McLean said. The ladder on the fire truck “flew up over top” of the train, he said. “I never heard nothing like it in all my life.”
The Chicago-bound train had left Pontiac at 10:40 a.m., stopped in Detroit at 11:36 a.m., and then slammed into the ladder truck on its way to Dearborn, Magliari said.
Four crew members and 65 passengers were aboard the train, the engine of which sustained some visible damage. At least one passenger was taken from the train on a stretcher, but officials said the injuries were minor.
The wreck threw the train off schedule at least three hours, as it had been set to arrive in Chicago at 5:16 p.m, but it didn't arrive in Dearborn until 2:58 p.m.