Train, truck collision kills one
Propane gas explodes shortly after collision, driver apparently thrown from vehicle
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A collision involving a truck loaded with propane gas and a CSX freight train at the Wilhite Road Crossing at Lacon Monday morning claimed the life of the truck driver and created a fire that lasted more than 13 hours.
The accident occurred at about 10:45 a.m. as the train, which consisted of two locomotives and 55 cars, was headed south to Birmingham. The AmeriGas delivery truck was traveling west on Wilhite Road. It was loaded with 2,000 gallons of propane.
The truck came to a stop on the west side of the tracks about 1,000 feet south of the crossing. It was on fire when Falkville firefighters arrived on the scene and later became engulfed in flames following an explosion. To control the blaze, firefighters laid down a remote water system and then backed off to allow the load of gas to burn off. Water was trucked in by tankers from the town of Falkville and that operation continued into the night.
The propane truck was assigned to Eric Vinson, father of two from Jasper, according to company officials. However, since no body had been recovered from the wreckage there was no report of a fatality as of 4 p.m.
Vinson’s body was found underneath the wreckage on Tuesday at about 1:30 a.m. according to Morgan County Coroner Russ Beard. He was 31.
Rail and road traffic through the remote area was halted due to the gas fire and to give investigating authorities the time they needed to collect evidence.
Railroad officials said the CSX tracks going through Hartselle and Falkville would remain closed until emergency operations with local officials are complete.
The train did not derail and escaped without damage.
Mike McCurley, base paramedic supervisor for Air Evac Lifeteam, said the cab and body of the truck remained intact and a piece of its front end was found underneath one of the train cars. He also said the red warning lights at the crossing were blinking, but the crossbars were up when he arrived on the scene.
At a 3:30 p.m. press conference, Morgan County EMA Director Eddie Hicks said a secondary concern was a wildfire triggered by the burning gas truck.
He added that at least nine fire departments had emergence response units on the scene during the afternoon. Also assisting were local police departments, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, the Morgan County Hazardous Materials Team and the local Red Cross unit.
Hicks said the escape of propane gas and the resulting fire prompted a one-mile evacuation order; however, no one had to be evacuated because the mishap occurred in a remote area. He also reported that only two minor accident had been reported and they involved two rapid responders.