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August 30, 2013

Truck derails Maine locomotive pulling propane cars

Police are investigating why the dump truck driver swerved around another vehicle and hit the train.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

HAMPDEN — A Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway locomotive that had picked up four propane cars from the Dead River Company in Hampden derailed Thursday morning after it was struck by a dump truck.

Bob Grindrod, who serves as president of the Hermon-based rail company, said the cars being pulled by the locomotive had been off-loaded at Dead River's facility and were empty at the time of the crash, which was reported at 10:22 a.m.

Hampden police said they are investigating what caused the truck driver to swerve around a vehicle that had stopped at the rail crossing to let the train pass.

The impact caused the engine to derail.

The engineer was not injured and the driver of the stopped vehicle was also not hurt. No fluids or materials were spilled.

"It was clearly not our fault," Grindrod said. "You don't knock a 175-ton locomotive sideways if you are going 10 mph."

Police said the truck operator, 63-year-old Frederick Lindsay of Houlton, was driving east on Route 202 -- also known as Western Avenue -- and coming down a slight grade.

For some reason, Lindsay was unable to stop for the car and swerved around the vehicle. His 1990 diesel dump truck hit the locomotive.

The truck was crushed by the force of the impact.

Lindsay became trapped inside and had to be extricated by the town's fire and rescue workers.

Sgt. Chris Bailey said Lindsay had to be transported by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor with what authorities are describing as non-life threatening injuries.

"It had the potential to be much worse than it was," Bailey said.

Police said the truck was carrying sand.

Bailey said the road was still shut down late Thursday and will likely remain closed through Friday to give crews time to remove the locomotive and the cars it was transporting.

A Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train carrying crude oil derailed in July, exploded, and destroyed 40 buildings in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The disaster killed 47 people.

Even if the rail cars had been carrying propane, Grindrod said it is unlikely there would have been an explosion.

"Propane cars are built like battleships," he said.

Grindrod said it would be unfair to link the Quebec disaster to Thursday's accident.

Though Hampden police have not established a cause, Grindrod said it was clear that the train was not at fault.

"It was unfortunate," he said. "The flashing lights were on and the bells were ringing. Another motorist was stopped at the rail crossing."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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