A Union Pacific train collided with and bisected a loaded tractor trailer Monday morning at the rail crossing with Herman Creek Lane at Forest Lane in east Cascade Locks.
Driver Juan Castro of Carson was unhurt in the collision. He was hauling about two tons of wood chips southbound out of the Bear Mountain supply yard at 8:47 a.m., heading to the pellet plant’s main plant, when the truck got stuck on the tracks, according to Sgt. Pete Hughes of Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, who responded to the scene along with Cascade Locks Fire Department.
A Union Pacific train did not have time to stop, according to Hughes.
“It was scary. It’s not something you see every day,” said Kipsy Mathews of the adjacent hillside Shalala neighborhood, who saw the accident.
“I was turning up the hill go to home and he (Castro) was out of his truck and I saw him turn to go back towards his truck, and then I just saw the train smash through. It went ‘bam!’
“Then I turned around to see if he was okay. He had been out of his truck and I turned around and came back and just checked on him to be sure he was okay because by then he was sitting in his truck. I thought, ‘Oh, my, God was he in it?’ But he hadn’t been and he was okay, and I stayed with him until some people showed up for him.”
Hughes said the trailer “high centered” on the tracks and was unable to move for about 10 minutes after getting stuck, when the eastbound Union Pacific train came, “and he (Castro) did not have enough room to stop and hit it.”
Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahan said, “The lead locomotive was damaged to the point where it’s not road worthy, although it can be safely moved to a repair facility.” He added that rail traffic was routed around the scene.
The impact of the train caused wood chips to spill along the bank for about 70 feet, and uprooted the north rail crossing bar; the south one was undamaged.
On the north side of the train, however, lay about two-thirds of the trailer.
About 20 people employed at businesses on the north side of the tracks were unable to leave the area, because the train blocked two access roads, for about 45 minutes until the Port of Cascade Locks opened a gate at the entrance of a private driveway connecting to Forest Lane, east of the crash site. Responders were able to route Forest Lane vehicles around the scene.
The truck and train were expected to be in place for about two hours while preliminary investigations at the scene were carried out by Federal Railraod Administration, according to Hughes. Hughes said no traffic citation was issued.