Allen Pitcher didn't have time to react and to move his tractor trailer out of the path of an oncoming train before it struck the trailer on the railroad crossing at Henderson and Long streets just before noon Wednesday.
Pitcher, 64, of Cambridge, Maine, was driving for Hartt Transportation based in Bangor, Maine. He was picking up a delivery at Sonoco Recycling. Pitcher was backing up the trailer to a loading dock when he heard the train whistle and the crossing arms came down onto the cab area of the truck. The truck's cab became trapped between the arms.
“He (train) was coming faster than I was able to get off,” Pitcher said.
He crashed the truck through the crossing arms in an attempt to get off the track, but did not get off in time. “I just sat there and looked at the trailer,” he said.
The train, which did not leave the tracks, hit the back end of the trailer.
Pitcher was not injured and got out of the truck to assess the damage. The rear wheel assembly was completely detached from the trailer and came to rest alongside the trailer. The crossing arm, lights and other equipment was strewn about the ground. The top part of the trailer and door came undone.
Pitcher said he was taking a load to Hartsville, S.C. He's been driving for about 40 years, but this is the worst accident he's ever been involved in, he said.
Pitcher wasn't scared or startled when the accident occurred, “but I'm more startled now,” he said, a half hour after it happened.
Salisbury Police Officer M.P. Benjamin said the driver would not be charged. Police blocked off the entrance to Sonoco Recycling to regular traffic on both sides of the railroad tracks. Sonoco crews were able to continue working.
It took more than an hour to turn the trailer around, get it mounted onto a dolly to be towed away. A crew from Crawford's Garage used a forklift to get the trailer off the ground, turn it forward again and move it a short distance before beginning the extensive work to get the truck towed. The trailer had turned sideways while the cab still faced the roadway. The garage crew used an industrial load moving dolly hoisted underneath the trailer since the rear wheels were detached. The cab was detached and the trailer reattached to a tow truck.
Norfolk Southern officials arrived on the scene to collect the debris, equipment and make repairs to the crossing.