A freight train struck a garbage truck Tuesday morning at the same street-level railroad crossing in Rosedale where a similar collision 15 months ago resulted in a fiery explosion.
The incident could have been far worse, considering what happened last year when the train derailed and the explosion caused widespread damage throughout the nearby industrial area.
The CSX Transportation train remained on the tracks this time, and no one was injured in the crash at 8:15 a.m. near 68th Street and Lake Drive. The truck driver, identified by police as Ramona Patrice Jones, 44, of Cockeysville, paced around the scene even though the back of her truck was mangled.
Jones, who declined to comment, was charged with failing to stop at a railroad crossing and failing to reduce speed when approaching a crossing, among other citations, Baltimore County police said.
"She should go to church tonight," said George Ferguson, 49, an employee at Eastern Truck & Trailer across the street. "Not too many people walk away from something like that."
Surveillance video from Ferguson's business appeared to show Jones' 2005 Peterbilt truck pull out into the tracks seconds before the train struck its right rear side, slamming it sideways into an upright position parallel to the tracks.
The video was similar to one from last year's accident, when John Alban Jr. drove his truck into the same railroad crossing. Alban survived the resulting collision with serious injuries, after being pulled from the wreckage by bystanders — Ferguson among them.
The train in that incident was carrying hazardous materials. After it partially derailed and started burning, an explosion occurred that was felt for miles, blowing out windows and knocking down walls and ceilings at businesses nearby.
Ferguson said there was a similar bang this time when the collision occurred, but much less screeching. Still, he said he knew something had happened at the crossing once again.
"When we walked out and saw the smoke over by the trees, we knew he hit something," Ferguson said.
By the time he walked to the tracks, as he had done last time, the truck driver was out of her vehicle walking around, Ferguson said.
Police said Nova Services Inc., which has offices in Brooklyn Park and offers commercial recycling services, owns the truck.
"We're certainly glad the driver's safe, but I don't really have any other comments," said Brian Fiorito, a Nova Services manager.
Baltimore County police said the vehicle was built to carry dumpsters but was not carrying one at the time of the collision. At the scene, the truck cab was intact, but its rear carriage was bent and twisted.
Police and CSX agents were both on the scene investigating the incident Tuesday morning.
Rob Doolittle, a CSX spokesman, said the train had two locomotives and 27 cars, all designed to carry Tropicana orange juice. All the cars were empty on the train bound for Richmond, Va., he said.
Within two hours of the collision, the Tropicana train was gone, the Nova truck had been towed, and another CSX train was passing along the tracks.
In May 2013, the story was different.
The massive explosion left nearby businesses closed for months, first during the cleanup and investigation, and then working to rebuild. Many businesses said they still were recovering as recently as this May.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates such accidents, still has not released its final report on what happened.
CSX sued Alban and accused him of causing the collision. Police also determined that Alban was at fault, charging him with seven traffic violations. He was convicted of three, including negligent driving. Alban sued CSX as well, but his case was dismissed.
The private crossing, which leads to a small industrial area that included Alban's business, has no lights or gates and is marked with crossbucks and a yield sign. It is one of about 80 crossings in Maryland without gates, lights or bells.
Last year, the Federal Railroad Administration ranked the 68th Street crossing 16th in the state for likelihood of a collision, with a 4.2 percent chance of one happening in any given year. State law gives trains the right-of-way in any crossing.
Federal records indicate about 23 trains pass through that crossing daily, usually at speeds between 45 mph and 50 mph. Besides the collisions this year and last year, only one other crash was listed in records — in 1988, though no one was injured when a truck struck a train in that incident.
Doolittle declined to comment on the status or safety of the crossing Tuesday, citing ongoing litigation related to last year's collision.
Some who work in the industrial park expressed frustration that another collision had occurred, some blaming truck drivers in the area.
"You'd think they'd be a little more wise," Ferguson said. "They just don't slow down. They come across like nothing is there."
Renee Schmidt said in an email she lives in Rosedale near the tracks, and said CSX does a good job posting signs and blowing horns when trains are approaching.
"I have lived there for almost 20 years and have also walked on the tracks enjoying the day with my husband and dog, and NEVER have we had any issues, because you can hear the trains and you have signs, and guess what … you need to use common sense!" she wrote.
Logan Faulkner, a warehouse manager at Superior Distribution, a shingle and roofing company that was heavily damaged in last year's incident, wondered about drivers not paying attention — but also why the crossing hadn't gotten new safety features.
"You'd think CSX would have put in a crossing gate or flashing lights or something," he said.
Carrie Foster, Faulkner's mother and Superior Distribution's operations manager, said when she first heard about Tuesday's incident, she was concerned.
"I said, 'God only knows what's on that train. Who knows if they're going to force us to evacuate again?'" she said.
Word from her son that the train was designed for beverages reassured her.
"Orange juice," she said, "we can handle."
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