Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2000-19, 2000 Aug; :1-11
On March 17, 2000, a 31-year-old male career fire fighter/engineer (the victim) died after the apparatus (Truck 1) that he was driving collided with an Amtrak train at a railroad crossing. The victim was returning to the station after his apparatus, along with others, was cancelled when the alarm was determined to be false. Responding in addition to Truck 1 were Squad 1, Engine 2, Engine 11, Engine 1, Squad 3, and Battalion Commander (BC-1). Engine 2, the first unit on the scene at a commercial structure, determined the alarm was false and cancelled all responding units. Engine 1 was returning to the station with Truck 1 and Squad 1 following when Truck 1 and Squad 1 turned onto another road. Truck 1, followed by Squad 1, stopped behind a civilian vehicle on the west side of a railroad crossing consisting of three sets of tracks. The safety gates at the crossing were down, the warning lights were activated, and a freight train was moving slowly on the tracks. Squad 1 decided to take an alternate route back to the fire station. The freight train stopped after it cleared the crossing to wait for a signal ahead. Truck 1 started to go around the first safety gate and over the track. Witness #1, in a vehicle behind Truck 1, saw a tanker car at the end of the freight train that obstructed the northbound view of the tracks, and he heard a train whistle. Witness #2, waiting in a vehicle on the east side of the crossing, saw a southbound Amtrak train approaching. He also saw Truck 1 driving around the first safety gate, so he honked his horn and flashed his headlights to warn the driver of the Amtrak train. Truck 1 continued around the safety gate and traveled into the path of the train, which struck the truck's left front corner and the bucket of the aerial ladder. The victim was ejected, landing behind the truck's left rear dual wheel. He was killed instantly. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar incidents, fire departments should: ensure fire fighters follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) and State motor vehicle codes for safely driving and operating emergency vehicles during emergency response and non-emergency travel; ensure that all fire fighters who ride in emergency fire apparatus are wearing and belted securely by seat belts; consider attending an "Operation Lifesaver" education program in communities where there is a volume of railway traffic.