Train accident demolishes DOTD backhoe

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 16, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / December 16, 2000

LAPLACE – A state highway department truck hauling a trailer loaded with abackhoe lost a race with a westbound Illinois Central Gulf train Thursdaymorning.There were no injuries.The truck cleared the tracks, traveling northbound on Spruce Street towardWest Fifth Street, but the train struck and splattered the trailer andbackhoe into an adjoining ditch.”I came up on top and I was dead-center on the track when I saw the train,”said truck driver Billy Mason, 49, of LaPlace. “There wasn’t nothing I could doabout it but go forward.”The track, one of several in the neighborhood, doesn’t have signal lights orgates, but it does have signs.The accident took place at 9:35 a.m. as Mason and co-worker MartinNarcisse, also of LaPlace, were relocating the backhoe. Meanwhile, a 97-cartrain loaded with corn destined for ADM Growmark grain elevator in Reservewas only 50 yards from the crossing when it was spotted by Mason.”I’m just glad to be here,” Mason said. “I’ve come over this crossing a hundredtimes, but I’m going to eliminate this one.”The train, engineered by Carl Wilson, was moving at 33 mph in a 40-mphzone. It sustained heavy damage to the front but was still operational, Wilsontold authorities.DOTD supervisor Keith Monistere spent much of the remainder of Thursdayretrieving the scrap remaining from the backhoe and trailer. Mason wasticketed by Sgt. Donnie Freeman of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office forfailing to yield at a railroad crossing.

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