Driver OK after train hits truck

December 23, 2002 11:00 pm
Emergency personnel responded to the scene of the accident Dec. 24. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Emergency personnel responded to the scene of the accident Dec. 24. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

Baker County's deputy watermaster escaped serious injury this morning when the county pickup truck he was driving was clipped by a westbound Union Pacific freight train as it crossed the tracks just north of Baker City.

Tom Rudolph, 58, was shaken but sustained only minor injuries in the accident, according to Fred Hertel, assistant Baker City fire chief. Rudolph's ribs were bruised and one of his hands was scratched, Hertel said.

He was taken by ambulance to St. Elizabeth Health Services.

Rudolph was crossing the railroad tracks just off Highway 30 across from Chandler Corner, about five miles north of Baker City when the accident happened about 9:30 a.m. The train struck the left rear panel of the 2000 Ford pickup truck Rudolph was driving, sending it about 30 feet into the air.

Rudolph had stopped at the crossing, controlled only by stop signs, before proceeding west across the tracks, according to Sheriff Troy Hale. He apparently didn't see the train until just seconds before impact and then accelerated across in front of the engine, which was traveling at 40 to 50 mph, Hale said.

Richard Davis was the conductor on the 58-car train traveling from Nampa, Idaho, to La Grande.

"The guy stopped and we could see him looking around," Davis said.

The whistle was sounded down the track as the train approached the crossing, but Rudolph apparently didn't hear the whistle or see the train.

"He goosed it at the last second," Davis said.

The train crew hit the brakes, but the train continued past the site for another quarter mile taking 46 cars past the crossing before coming to a complete stop.

Davis said he heard the impact and then saw the pickup truck rolling into the ditch. It landed upright facing south.

The train was separated while the sheriff's department investigated the accident and the ambulance crew prepared to take Rudolph to the hospital.