Conducter hailed as hero after train collides with truck in Berlin

BERLIN, Conn. (WTNH) — Ambulances took five people to the hospital Monday after a collision involving an Amtrak train and a tree trimming truck in Berlin this morning.

The engineer, who couldn’t stop the train in time, was able to warn passengers and evacuate the first train coach.

The incident happened at 9:20 a.m. near Norton Lane to the west of Silver Lake, when Amtrak train #490, the New Haven-Springfield shuttle, hit a truck pulling a wood chipper.

At an afternoon news conference, Gov. Dannel Malloy said the impact pulled the chipper under the train car and sparked a fire.

“It is believed at this time that friction caused the tires of the chipper to catch on fire,” Malloy said.

“We’ve determined that the truck was on the tracks when the train came through,” Berlin Police Chief Paul Fitzgerald said. “The train… travels at a high rate of speed in the area because it’s very rural.”

Fire Chief Jim Simons said ambulances transported five people to the hospital.

“There was two strapped to backboards,” he said. “The driver of the truck – the other individuals, the workers of the truck, fled prior to the train — he was still trying to move that truck off of the tracks when the accident happened.”

An Amtrak spokesman told News 8 45 passengers were on the train.

Gov. Malloy said the engineer was able to apply the brakes and run into the train to warn passengers by evacuating the first coach. “The engineer saw what was going to happen, apparently raced through the two cars, inform people to be ready and moved everyone to the second car,” Malloy said.

Chief Simons expected crews will be on the scene for the rest of the day.

In a post on Twitter, Michael Mohammadi writes: “So my train just crashed just north of Meriden CT. Most people ok, few minor injuries train on fire”

Photo by Michael Mohammadi  of Amtrak train crash in Berlin, June 23, 2014.
Photo by Michael Mohammadi of Amtrak train crash in Berlin, June 23, 2014.

The truck driver was also injured, but the extent of the injuries is not clear. Other people were in the truck but got away, Chief Fitzgerald said.

Crews from several towns responded to the scene to assist Berlin firefighters.

Amtrak reports all other passengers on board were removed from the train and taken by school buses to a nearby hotel before continuing on their way.

This is the second accident involving an Amtrak train in less than 24 hours. In Massachusetts, two people were killed when an Amtrak train hit a car in the town of Mansfield. Train service into Boston was delayed for hours.

Gov. Malloy said earlier in the day had not heard from Amtrak on when the trains would be moving again on the New Haven-Springfield line. “This is a tough day for Amtrak,” Malloy said.

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