When the explosion occurred, Beverly said, he could feel intense heat inside his vehicle.

"We had no idea it was going to blow up," Beverly said. "I had my son in the car with me, and my thinking was basically to get away. … I thought it was going to explode even more."

The National Transportation Safety Board said a team of 15 rail and hazmat investigators would spend four to seven days investigating all aspects of the incident.

The crash took place at private grade crossing where the only safety mechanism was a sign notifying motorists to stop, Robert Sumwalt, a member of the NTSB, said at a news conference Tuesday night.

Investigators will be able to determine the speed the train's speed, and camera on a front locomotive should show where the truck was at the time of the crash, Sumwalt said.

Derailments are the most common type of train accident in Maryland, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis. Of the recorded 50 accidents recorded in the state in 2011 and 2012, 26 were derailments.

CSX trains collide with vehicles at Maryland intersections roughly a dozen times each year, the data show.

Two teenage college students were killed in downtown Ellicott City last August when a train carrying coal derailed and buried them in debris. A preliminary report by the NTSB suggested that investigators were focused on track conditions; a final report has not been issued. NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said the formal investigation can take between 12 and 18 months to complete.

After the crash Tuesday, authorities shut down U.S. 40 westbound at Rosedale Road, and eastbound at 64th Street. The Interstate 95, I-895 and I-695 ramps to U.S.40 were closed.

Authorities said they did not know what caused the crash. An undated aerial image of the area from Google Earth shows an open stretch of track that connects the industrial park with a property that appeared to be full of roll-off Dumpsters.

Alban's business was listed in the 1000 block of 68th Street.

William Stump, treasurer of the Hyde Park Fire Co., said Alban has volunteered with the company for about 25 years. Stump said he had been in contact with Alban's family.

"We heard he's doing pretty good," Stump said.

Traffic was jammed on Pulaski Highway as emergency trucks and responders raced to the fire. All along the way, people stood outside and stared at the billowing plume of smoke.

Residents going home from work were not being allowed into the neighborhood around the fire.

The smell of acrid smoke filled the area as armies of fire trucks and paramedics arrived. Officers blocked the path of a woman in a gold Ford Explorer. She yelled, "I'm just trying to get my kid"; they rerouted her.

The front window at the Atlantic Tire shop on Pulaski Highway was a gaping hole, and employees stood outside, marveling at the plumes. They said they watched garage light bulbs explode.

"Definitely catches you off guard," employee Matt Ashline said. "I want to get over there."

Nearly 300 students at Greater Grace Church on Moravia Park Road sheltered in place after the explosion.

Mike Veader, the church's head of security, said he was standing in the parking lot reporting the plume of smoke when the explosion occurred.