Amtrak official: Fatal train-truck collision could have been worse'
By By William F. West / community editor
Sept. 22, 2002
An investigation is under way into a collision Friday afternoon between an Amtrak passenger train and an 18-wheeler near Meridian Regional Airport.
The driver of the truck, 51-year-old Robert Barkin of Longview, Texas, was killed in the accident.
Rick Degman, assistant general manager for Amtrak's Crescent Line in Meridian, said Amtrak, Norfolk Southern Railway and the Meridian Police Department are in charge of the probe.
Barkin's truck was in front of the Celotex ceiling tile plant, pointed toward U.S. 11, when the collision occurred.
The collision happened shortly after 4 p.m. Emergency crews, firefighters and law enforcement officers rushed to the scene. A segment of U.S. 11 was closed for several hours, and onlookers stood by despite a heady smell of diesel fuel.
The train, which originated in New York and was on its way to New Orleans, had pulled out of the Meridian station only minutes before the collision. Degman said the train was going about 50 mph, which he said was the proper speed.
Difficult to stop
The collision happened at the crossing in front of the Celotex ceiling tile plant.
Celotex worker Keith Slade told reporters the truck had stopped and that it looked like the driver was going to reverse after seeing the train. Slade said the driver never had a chance.
Degman said about 70 passengers and crew members onboard the train were unharmed. He said the engineer was taken to a hospital as a precaution, but he's OK.
Degman did not identify the engineer but said he is from the Birmingham, Ala., area and has been worked in the railroad industry for about 30 years.
The lead locomotive, a General Electric about four years old, sustained damage to its front end and had to be left in Meridian. Degman said a crew of mechanics were sent from New Orleans to work on the engine so it can be moved to New Orleans for more extensive repairs.
Norfolk Southern helps
Degman said Norfolk Southern, which owns the railroad line, provided a locomotive to get the rest of the train and its passengers to New Orleans. He said the train left the wreck scene at about 8:30 p.m. and arrived in New Orleans sometime after midnight.
There was no damage to the track, which Degman said handles two Amtrak trains and probably 30 freight trains each day.
Degman said that collisions between trains and automotive vehicles are, unfortunately, pretty common all over the country.
In spite of the obvious tragedy, Degman said it could have been worse.