The train was westbound near the county line in McBean around 12:40 p.m. when the northbound tractor-trailer was unable to stop, according to Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Ramone Lamkin. The driver jumped out of the truck’s cab and the semi hit the train on the Burke County side, resulting in more than two dozen cars derailing.
A vehicle that was stopped on the opposite side of the railroad crossing was hit by one of the railroad cars. Police said the impact resulted in the vehicle overturning.
No one was seriously injured in the incident, Lamkin said. The names of those involved have not been released.
Police said it appears that all of the lights and arms were working properly at the crossing. Other tractor-trailers and vehicles were already stopped at the crossing at the time of the crash.
Rick Harris, director of corporate communications at Norfolk Southern, said the train was headed to Savannah from Linwood, N.C., and consisted of two locomotives, 12 loaded cars, 26 empty cars and weighed about 2,404 tons.
“The initial indication is that 19 cars derailed,” Harris said shortly after the crash.
Several hours later at the scene, Lamkin said the count had climbed to about 26 derailed cars.
“Unfortunately there’s going to be some delays,” he said of the clean-up process.
The road is expected to be closed for about 48 hours while crews remove wreckage and repair the rails.
Hazmat crews were also called to the scene, but Lamkin said, no fluids or chemicals were leaking as a result of the crash.
Police estimate detours around the area could take 30 minutes or longer during rush hour.
Richmond County deputies will be detouring traffic through Hephzibah McBean Road. Burke County deputies will be detouring traffic on the Georgia Highway 25 bypass in Waynesboro and through Old Waynesboro Road.
It’s not the first crash at the site.
Sherri Joyner, who lives nearby, said speeding is an issue in the area. From her home she can hear the loud thump every time a big rig speeds over the railroad hump.
Tuesday when she heard the ambulances after a loud boom, she knew something bad had happened.
Harris said about six trains travel through that area daily. Including today’s incident, there have been six truck/train incidents there since 1977 — one in 1977 (with a fatality); one in 1985; two in 2002 (with one fatality) and one in 2003.