Train slams into dump truck near Rifle, leaving two dead
An eastbound locomotive traveling an estimated 60 miles per hour broadsided a dump truck two miles east of Rifle Thursday morning, instantly killing the truck’s two occupants, said Colorado State Patrol accident investigator Dennis Gibbons.The State Patrol did not release the victims’ names, but Gibbons said they were from out of state. The 1995 Freight Line truck was owned by a Texas paving company.The conductor on the Union Pacific locomotive, David Mantlo, 56, of Grand Junction, was taken to Clagett Memorial Hospital in Rifle, then transported via ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. St. Mary’s spokesperson Jeff Kirtland said Mantlo was under observation Thursday afternoon.The locomotive engineer was not injured, according to State Patrol technician Don Moseman.The fully loaded dump truck was traveling westbound on Highway 6 & 24 at approximately 8:30 a.m. when it slowed to turn south, or left, onto a short stretch of private road that accesses the Casey Concrete plant.Gibbons said the truck was hauling scrap concrete, and the driver had never been to Casey Concrete. Either the driver or passenger were on a CB talking to another trucker, trying to locate the turn, Gibbons said, when the accident occurred.The engineer sounded the locomotive’s horn and attempted to stop before hitting the truck.The track crossing is not controlled, but stop signs are posted on both sides of the access road. One warns drivers they will be fined if they do not stop at the railroad tracks, which are about 20 yards south of the highway.Gibbons said the train engineer saw the truck slow down and make the turn, but the driver made no attempt to stop.There is a small tree and bush at the northeast corner of the crossing, but Colorado State Patrol trooper J.J. Robinson said, “Visibility is pretty good. … You’ve got a really good view of the eastbound train.”The locomotive, which was linked to a second engine, struck the truck at the right passenger door.”The locomotive came right into the cab,” Robinson said.The impact of the crash shoved the truck about 50 yards down the tracks, and separated the bed and cab from the chassis.”The chassis landed on a power pole and knocked it down,” Gibbons said.Across the highway, Ken Spangler and other employees were in the office at Spangler Auto Salvage when the crash occurred.”We heard a big crash as the train hit the truck,” Spangler said. “I went over and found the bodies, and could pretty well tell they were only bodies at the time. They were still entangled in the cab. There wasn’t much left.”Spangler estimated it took the locomotive about a half mile to come to a halt. “They stopped in those trees over there,” Spangler said as he pointed southwest.Gibbons said the railroad tracks were closed for about three hours following the crash. By 2:15 p.m., the entire truck had been loaded onto a Blaine Ward Towing long-bed tractor trailer rig.The eastbound Amtrak passenger train slowed to a crawl as it rolled past the wreckage.Thursday’s truck/train accident isn’t the first in that stretch of Highway 6 & 24 east of Rifle, where there is at least one other access point for gravel pits operating between the railroad tracks and Colorado River.In 1999, a train hit a truck as it was entering or exiting a gravel pit just west of where Thursday’s accident occurred.”There weren’t any fatalities in that one,” said Robinson.
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