THREE OAKS — An Amtrak train struck a truck at the Elm Street Crossing in downtown just before noon on Friday, Jan. 25.
An Amtrak engineer suffered minor facial injuries when debris from the vehicle crashed through the engine’s window, and he was transported to Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari confirmed. None of the 165 passengers on board reported injuries, and they continued their trip on chartered buses, Magliari said. The train was traveling from Chicago to Pontiac.
Local Attorney Charles A. Hilmer witnessed the accident from the street in front of his office at 20 South Elm Street (a short distance from the tracks).
"I saw the truck come out from next to the library, turn (right) to cross the track … the gates started to come down, and I believe the gate on the east side of the track came down in front of the hood of the truck. So it stopped."
Another witness said the driver came out of the cab to try and lift the crossing gate arm off the front of the truck with assistance from a passerby before jumping back in and attempting to drive off of the tracks.
Hilmer said the driver managed to move the truck forward slightly, and then the truck was hit by the train.
Debris from the back end of the El Paso Import Co. truck was scattered down Oak Street along the tracks and a parked car suffered extensive visible damage.
The eastbound train was stopped about a mile toward Galien with pieces of the truck still attached.
The driver of the truck emerged from an ambulance at the accident scene while crews were clearing debris and was later seen in the cab of the damaged truck talking on a cell phone.
Three Oaks Police Chief Dennis Buller said that the accident remains under investigation and as of Jan. 25 no citations had been issued.
The Three Oaks police and firefighters were assisted by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, New Buffalo Township Police, Amtrak police and Three Oaks Ambulance.
It was the third recent accident involving an Amtrak train in the region. A train heading from Chicago to Grand Rapids on Jan. 20 hit an unoccupied vehicle that had slid onto the tracks in Chesterton, Ind. On Jan. 21 a train traveling from Port Huron to Chicago hit a semi tractor trailer in Gary, Ind. There were no injuries from those accidents.