Home Rescue News Truck driver, passenger die after ignoring lowered gate

Truck driver, passenger die after ignoring lowered gate

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RALEIGH – A truck driver died Tuesday along with his passenger after he ignored flashing lights and swerved around a lowered crossing gate, according to authorities, and his truck collided with a passenger train.

Chris McCullough, 34, of Garner and Keith Spence, 33, of Raleigh were thrown from the vehicle and died on Rush Street off Hammond Road in Southeast Raleigh. Their bodies were found near shards of metal and pieces of McCullough’s mangled truck about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Raleigh police said.

The northbound Carolinian train had just left the Raleigh station with its 180 passengers, three crew members and an engineer on board. After the crash, at least 14 passengers were taken to WakeMed Raleigh Campus with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

Uninjured passengers were taken by bus to the Raleigh Convention Center where they made other arrangements for travel.

The dump truck had left a rock quarry on Garner Road about 12:18 p.m., police said. McCullough drove and Spence sat in the passenger seat as the vehicle headed west on Rush Street.

Spence and McCullough were headed to Ileagnes Road, where a grading job waited for the load of stones the truck was carrying, according to Spence’s co-workers.

As the vehicle traveled on Rush Street, it whizzed by a strip mall and a mobile home park, according to eyewitnesses.

The railroad crossing’s gate began to lower, eyewitnesses said. Red lights flashed while warning bells clanged.

Police didn’t know Tuesday afternoon whether McCullough and Spence were wearing seat belts or whether the truck was speeding. McCullough had had several traffic violations, including citations for speeding and driving with an expired registration.

“For an unknown reason, the driver of the truck did not stop and drove around the gate to the left,” said Jim Sughrue, police spokesman. “The cab of the truck was directly impacted by the train at the crossing.”

Victoria Larios was carrying bags of clothes from her mini-van into her home, which sits near the train tracks.

When Larios looked up, she saw a dump truck speeding down the hilly street, she said. It swerved around the crossing gate. Then, Larios heard a large boom and she ran inside crying.

Larios’ daughter, Sandra, was washing grapes in the kitchen sink when she heard the loud noise. She looked out the window.

“I heard the train trying to stop,” Sandra Larios said. “The train stopped very quickly.”

Up the street at W Amana Auto Sales & Repair, mechanic Omar Musafer was working when a passing bike caught his eye, he said.

Musafer watched the bike travel down Rush Street. Then, he saw the truck, at the bottom of the street, slam into the train.

He ran to the tracks and saw legs lying on the road, covered with pieces of the truck.

“It was not a good sight,” Musafer said. “There was no truck left, there was just metal.”

Police and emergency crews arrived and transported 14 people to WakeMed, Sughrue said.

Five of the train’s eight cars, including the engine, were knocked off the tracks by the crash but remained upright, police said.

Although Amtrak trains normally reach speeds of 79 mph, the authorized speed at the site of the crash was 50 mph, according to Amtrak officials.

In 2004, about 3,000 collisions occurred in the U.S. at train crossings, killing about 370, according to a report by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

At the Raleigh crash, a group of about 50 onlookers quickly gathered. The crowd watched firefighters and police walk through the wreckage and help passengers off the silver train.

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