BENTON COUNTY, Wash. - A truck driver has died after a freight train slammed into his semi-trailer rig as it was crossing tracks in Eastern Washington.
Emergency personnel responded to the scene, near Plymouth in Benton County, at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after receiving reports of a train derailment.
Officials told KEPR-TV News that responders found what was left of a semi attached to the first train engine in flames.
Medics found the driver, 66-year-old Ronald Slagg, to be critically injured. He was airlifted to the hospital but died from his injuries Wednesday evening.
The semi's cargo crashed on one side of the tracks while the cab was split and thrown into the field on the other side of the unguarded railroad crossing.
Officials said the force of the crash knocked down a nearby utility pole, ripping down power lines at the scene. Crews were at the scene to repair the fallen lines.
Firefighters said the collision also caused a fuel spill that sparked four fires down the length of the train.
All emergency agencies in Benton County responded to the scene to help control the flames and keep them from spreading.
Detectives with the Benton County Sheriff's Department are investigating the cause of the crash.
Truck driver dies in collision with train near Plymouth
By Cameron Probert
A 66-year-old truck driver died after a freight train struck his semi Wednesday just outside of Plymouth.
Ronald Slagg of Yakima was driving a truck with an empty trailer on a private road about five miles west of Interstate 82, said the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
The train was traveling to Portland when it collided with the semi at a private crossing at 2:28 p.m., said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.
The crossing was marked, and the train was using its whistle as it approached, he said. The crew tried to stop.
The impact demolished the truck’s cab, cutting the semi into three large pieces.
Slagg was flown to Kadlec Medical Center where he later died. A small fire started near the tracks and spread to the locomotive where BNSF employees extinguished it, Melonas said. Neither the train’s conductor nor the engineer were hurt.
Benton County firefighters put out the small fire that started in the brush near the collision.
The 53-car train was traveling from Chicago to Portland with a load of lighter fluid and acid, sheriff’s officials said. Nothing was damaged on the train, and nothing leaked.
BNSF crews were expecting to work until 7 p.m. clearing the wreckage and inspecting the locomotives and tracks, before the train could move, Melonas said.
Fifteen other trains were delayed because of the collision, he said. About 45 trains travel daily along the line.
Plymouth is along the Columbia River in southern Benton County about 30 miles from Kennewick.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the collision.