GROTTOES — The driver of a pickup truck escaped serious injury Thursday morning after his vehicle was struck by a train in Grottoes.
The impact ripped off the bed of the truck, and sent debris flying in all directions, including a tire that landed roughly 70 yards away in a snowbank. Despite the powerful impact, the driver, 49-year-old Grottoes resident Dwight Miller, was conscious and able to walk and talk when medics arrived.
“It could have been a lot worse,” said Grottoes Police Chief John Painter. “Not many people involved in train-versus-vehicle accidents survive.”
Emergency crews from Rockingham County Fire and Rescue and Grottoes Volunteer Fire Company responded to the crash at the railroad tracks on Cary Street, between Aspen and Park avenues, shortly before 8 a.m.
Painter said that Miller was traveling west in a 1997 Toyota T100 pickup on Cary Street when he approached the railroad tracks.
The chief said the stop bars at the railroad crossing were down and warning bells were working at the time of the crash. He said the conductor of the Norfolk Southern train also was blowing the horn, which is standard protocol when approaching town.
“The crossing arms were down according to the driver but he said he didn’t see the train and thought the crossing arms were stuck,” said Painter, adding that trains pass through the town at least a half-dozen times a day. “So he decided to go through.”
Painter said the southbound train was able to stop about a half-mile down the tracks. He said the train did not sustain any damage but still had part of the truck attached to it when it stopped.
After the impact, the truck ricocheted into a Toyota Rav4, which was stopped on the other side of the tracks.
Jill Hernandez, 38, of Grottoes, and her 13-year-old daughter were inside the SUV, which sustained about $2,000 in damage.
Hernandez said she saw the truck coming right at her vehicle, but at that point there wasn’t much she and her daughter could do.
“We just braced,” said Hernandez, who, along with her daughter, was not injured. “It scared me. I was just shook up a little bit.”
The Grottoes Rescue Squad took Miller by ambulance to Sentara RMH Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. Police said he sustained head lacerations.
Painter said Miller will be charged with reckless driving and failing to yield at a railroad crossing.
Hernandez is just grateful no one was seriously injured.
“Cars can be replaced,” she said.
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org