UPDATE: Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilled, 3 injured after train hits heavy truck, derails in Lookout Valley [photos]

UPDATE: Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilled, 3 injured after train hits heavy truck, derails in Lookout Valley [photos]

July 14th, 2016 by Paul Leach and Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

A worker walks near a train derailment after a train hit a semi-trailer on Wauhatchie Pike in Lookout Valley on Thursday.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Chattanooga Train Wreck

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UPDATE: The truck driver, Freeman Poindexter Jr., 44, refused to give a statement to traffic investigators. Investigators with the Chattanooga Police Department issued Poindexter a citation for not stopping at the stop sign.

Previous story:

Three people were injured Thursday morning after a Norfolk Southern train collided with a heavy truck, derailing numerous rail cars and forcing officials to close nearby roads.

The incident happened at 9:15 a.m. in the 400 block of Wauhatchie Pike, injuring the truck driver, train engineer and a conductor, according to the Chattanooga Fire Department.

The collision demolished the heavy "roll-off" truck and required firefighters to use special hydraulic equipment to extricate the driver, Garner said. Responders found the truck cab in a ditch 50 yards from the impact.

"The truck driver was extremely lucky not have been seriously injured or killed," he said.

Hamilton County EMS took all three victims to a local hospital, said Bruce Garner, fire department spokesman. The Norfolk Southern employees suffered minor injuries, he said.

"They actually walked up to the paramedics," he said.

Three locomotives and 10 rail cars left the tracks, with some of them upended, Garner said. The wreck also ruptured locomotive tanks, spilling "thousands of gallons of diesel fuel," he said. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Outside of the environmental hazard from the diesel fuel, investigators reported the accident involved no dangerous chemicals, Garner said.

Some of the train cars carried hazardous materials but none derailed, Garner said. The cars that did leave the track carried material such as lumber and plastic pellets.

A least a dozen firefighters, including members of the department's special operations division, responded to the incident, working with railroad employees to make sure no hazardous substances leaked from the cars.

Police closed intersections at Cummings Road, Cummings Highway and Wauhatchie Pike so Norfolk Southern repair crews could right the derailed cars and repair the track ripped away in the crash. Environmental cleaning companies HEPACO and Marion Environmental have joined Norfolk Southern in removing diesel fuel and other materials.

The truck belonged to Clean Harbors, one of the largest environmental cleanup agencies in North America. The company operates a facility at 3300 Cummings Road about a half-mile from the crash, Clean Harbors spokesman Eric Kraus said.

"What I can tell you at this time is that while we will conduct a full investigation regarding the root cause of the accident, our primary concern is with the health of the driver and the two conductors," Kraus said. "From what we know right now, we're grateful their injuries were not more severe."

He said the destroyed truck carried nonhazardous material in a container that remained intact. He added Clean Harbors often cleans up similar environmental messes.

"We typically clean up situations like this for our customers," Kraus said.

Norfolk Southern could not be reached for comment, but Garner said a company representative told the fire department they hoped to have the site cleaned up by this morning.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.


This story was updated July 15 at 1:55 p.m. with more information.


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