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Report reconstructs deadly Amtrak crash

But it does not indicate how fast the driver of a tractor-trailer was going when he hit the brakes.

A police report on the fatal crash July 11 in North Berwick between an Amtrak train and a trash-hauling truck says the force of the collision exploded the truck cab and spun the trailer into the second train car, causing it to derail.

The report, prepared by North Berwick police, does not include conclusions of several other agencies that are involved in the investigation, including Maine State Police, railroad police, Amtrak, and Springfield Terminal Railway, which maintains the track.

The investigation remains open and there is no time frame for when it will be complete, said North Berwick police Lt. James Moulton.

The report does not indicate how fast Peter Barnum, 35, of Farmington, N.H., was driving the tractor-trailer when he hit the brakes. It does describe what happened afterward.

Barnum was driving north on Elm Street, also called Route 4, approaching the railroad crossing at Buffum Road when the approach of Amtrak’s Downeaster activated the crossing lights and the barricades lowered.

Barnum “braked hard, skidded and crossed over the double yellow center lines,” said the report, prepared by Officer Timothy Niehoff. The truck continued skidding, into the path of Amtrak train 681, which was headed northeast toward Portland.

The front right side of the train’s lead engine slammed into the driver’s side of the cab with such force that it separated it from the trailer, ignited an explosion and reduced the cab to pieces.

Railroad officials said later that the train typically goes 70 mph through that crossing. The truck’s skid marks were about 200 feet long.

Barnum was thrown 350 feet from the point of impact and was found in a field northwest of the crash site with fatal injuries to his entire body, the report said.

The explosion ignited a fire in the lead engine that spread to the second car and set off brush fires alongside the tracks.

The trailer whipped around and hit the side of the train’s second car so hard that it knocked the rear wheels off the track, the report said. The force opened the trailer’s cargo door, scattering the trash it was carrying. The trailer came to rest 98 feet away in a field.

The train had 112 passengers on board. Four suffered minor injuries, as did two crew members.

The force of the collision separated the train’s front engine, which was badly burned in the fire, and the second engine, which also caught fire. Amtrak’s staff evacuated the train.

Barnum was driving for Triumvirate Environmental Inc., a waste management company based in Somerville, Mass., hauling about 25 tons of trash on a route from Kittery to the Maine Energy incinerator in Biddeford.

The cost of the damage to the train was more than $3 million, and Amtrak has sued Triumvirate to recoup the loss.

Amtrak contracts with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority to operate the Downeaster passenger service between Boston and Portland.

Amtrak alleges that Barnum ignored railroad crossing protection controls and warnings, as well as the locomotive’s horn, while entering the rail crossing.

In the lawsuit, Amtrak claims that Triumvirate “failed to properly train or failed to train altogether … Barnum. Triumvirate negligently hired Barnum and negligently entrusted the vehicle to Barnum, who it knew or should have known was unqualified to operate” the tractor-trailer.

When contacted about the federal lawsuit this week, Triumvirate said it needs more time to prepare a response.

Attorneys for the company filed papers Thursday in federal court in Massachusetts that gives them until Sept. 26 to answer the complaint from the National Railroad Passenger Corp., Amtrak’s parent company.

Source:  pressherald.com