Driver of truck hit by train didn’t obey signal, police say

This story was published on April 19, 2006 on Page B1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

HAMPDEN – The driver of the truck that was struck by a train in Hampden on April 11 has been charged with a traffic violation stemming from the collision, according to police.

Hampden police officially charged Michael Smith, 37, of Thomaston on April 15 with failure to obey a railroad signal warning and fined him $311.

Route 9 in Hampden, also known as Western Avenue, was closed for more than a day after Smith, a trucker for White Oak Farms of Warren, failed to see the warning lights at the railroad crossing and was struck by the Maine, Montreal & Atlantic train. Smith had been hauling demolition debris from Warren to the Pine Tree Landfill in Hampden.

Smith, who was driving east, told police he could not see the warning lights because of the setting sun reflecting off the sign.

When he finally noticed the lights at the last minute and heard the warning bells, Smith said he accelerated to try and get across the tracks before the northbound train hit him but was too late.

The train tore off the back end of the trailer, spilling trash onto the roadway and into the steep gully that runs along the tracks. The impact pushed the train’s engine and first two cars off the track.

The wreckage also gouged out part of Western Avenue.

No one was injured.

Including the cleanup, the Maine Department of Transportation determined the damage to Western Avenue at about $300,000, according to police.

“… And that was without the damage to the truck,” said Sgt. Scott Webber of Hampden police.

Western Avenue was reopened on Thursday, April 13. Traffic had been rerouted to Mayo, Kennebec, Meadow, Canaan and Patterson roads during the closure.