MASARDIS – A 69-year-old Biddeford truck driver was killed instantly shortly before noon Wednesday when his tractor-trailer failed to stop at a railroad crossing on Route 11 in Aroostook County and struck a moving train.
In his final moments, John Hughes apparently came around a curve, saw two cars stopped at the crossing, turned his truck into the left hand lane to avoid the vehicles stopped in front of him, and struck the train. Police said Hughes died on impact.
The accident happened at 11:39 a.m.
No one else was injured in the crash. Police estimated damage to the tracks, train and rig at $100,000. Hughes’ truck, owned by C and W Transport of Windham, was totaled.
Two railroad cars, part of an 80-car train owned by Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, were derailed when struck by Hughes’ 1996 Western Star. The two derailed cars were about 60th in the line of 80 cars. Police said the rail cars were all loaded. It could not immediately be determined where the train was headed or the speed at which it was traveling.
Traffic on Route 11 was stopped for the rest of the day. Trooper Rob Flynn of the Maine State Police said the road might be reopened by 8 p.m. Wednesday. Railroad crews had been working at the scene through the afternoon, and were still at least two hours away from having the roadway clear as of 6 p.m., Flynn said.
Hughes was about 10 miles south of Ashland traveling south when he came around a curve and saw the train at the Route 11 crossing, which features only flashing lights, police said.
According to Flynn and Sgt. Thomas Pelletier, both at the scene, when Hughes realized he could not stop in time he veered his truck away from the two vehicles stopped at the crossing.
Flynn said speed was a factor in the accident.
While police did not know the identity of two brothers from Windsor in one car, they said the other car was occupied by Robin Norris of Fort Kent. Neither vehicle was touched in the accident.
Flynn said the cab of Hughes’ truck was demolished, nearly unrecognizable. He estimated the damage to the tractor part of the 18-wheel rig at $50,000.
Hughes’ truck was loaded with 2-by-6-inch wide lumber.
Flynn said officials of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway estimated damage to the train at about $20,000, plus the labor involved.