Detroit’s Executive Fire Commissioner James Mack has already made his displeasure known about the collision between an Amtrak train and Ladder 13 this morning. Ladder 13 was on the scene of a previous car crash near the tracks. Here are excerpts from an article by George Hunter & Charlie LeDuff at The Detroit News:
“I’m very upset,” said executive fire commissioner James Mack. “I’m going to make it known that this is not acceptable and we’ll do some training.”
The truck was struck by a commuter train late this morning in southwest Detroit.
“The fire truck was parked right on the tracks,” said Willfrido Gutierrez, 27, whose Monte Carlo was struck by the tractor trailer. “I tried to get my wife and kid away from there and I heard a huge explosion.”
The four firefighters jumped in the rig and tried to get it off the tracks in time, but were unsuccessful. The truck, Ladder 13, was T-boned by the westbound train and crushed like an aluminum can and dragged a considerable distance before coming to rest on the tracks.
The driver was treated and released at a local hospital and will be off-duty.
The same ladder truck had been involved in an accident earlier this year, but Mack was unsure if it was the same driver.
“It was a $600,000 truck,” Mack said. “We’re trained professionals. We should always be thinking. I don’t think the citizens of Detroit are pleased that he parked on the tracks.
“I’m very upset. This was a disservice to the citizens. It’s their fire truck — they paid for it.”
The commanding officer of the ladder truck was Lieut. Gerard Martinez, according to a fire official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.
“Right now I can’t say anything about it,” Martinez said when reached by telephone at the fire house.
The head of the Detroit Fire Department is red hot about firefighters parking a $600,000 ladder truck on railroad tracks before it was hit by an Amtrak train today.
One firefighter — who was trying to drive the truck off the tracks when it was hit by the train – was treated and released at an area hospital, said Executive Fire Commissioner James Mack. Another firefighter initially parked the truck to wash away gas from an 11:30 a.m. accident in the intersection of Lonyo and John Kronk next to the tracks, he said.
“I’m very upset,” he said, standing in front of the mangled red truck body, a gold #13 on the side. “I think about the citizens when I’ve got a fire truck out of service. This is their fire truck. They pay for it. It should be in service and they should be careful.”
One person was taken off the Amtrak train on a stretcher, but did not appear to be seriously hurt.
“I wish the commissioner would express relief that no one was seriously hurt or injured in this accident,” said Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association. “No one — firefighter, civilian, or otherwise — in an accident was hurt. That’s our No. 1 concern.”
Beyond that, he said, “We’re going to sit back, make sure everything’s going OK and moving forward properly and see how things unfold. We’re not going to knee-jerk react.”
In the original car accident, Wllfrido Gutierrez, 27; his wife, Anna, 24, and their 3-month-old baby Suri were northbound on Lonyo crossing Kronk when they collided with a semi-tractor trailer eastbound on Kronk.
The couple and their baby were fine, Gutierrez said. Anna sat back down in the car with the baby while firefighters from Ladder 13 fire station on Lawndale at Lafayette at Lawndale washed gas away.
But then the crossing gate bells began to ring.
Gutierrez’s uncle, Bernabe Gutierrez-Amana, 39, of Detroit, who had come to the scene to help, looked up.
“We hear a noise, the train was coming, about 20 yards away,” he said. “I grabbed my nephew’s wife and run — fast. I go, ’Run!’ She didn’t know what to do. And when I looked back, there was big dust. It sounded like an explosion.”
Bob McLean, 41, of Redford Township, who was driving nearby, saw the train hit the fire truck, pushing it off the tracks.
The fire truck was parked across all three railroad tracks, and the Amtrak train came … with the horn going and they couldn’t move it. And the train just crunched it. It flew up over top of it, the train. I never heard nothing like it in all my life.”
The train, which was heading to Chicago, wasn’t evacuated. At 2:09 p.m., the engine, pulling seven silver cars with blue and red stripes, softly blew its whistle twice and pulled away, heading west to the Windy City.