Train slams into 18-wheeler, injuring trucker

A southbound train smashed an 18-wheeler that stopped at an Orangeburg rail crossing early Wednesday, injuring the trucker and blocking traffic for hours.

Authorities said 47-year-old James Porter of Bamberg was treated for several broken bones and other injuries he suffered when his tractor-trailer was hit by the 19-car Norfolk Southern train.

Two Orangeburg Department of Public Safety officers were stopped at the traffic light at the intersection of Magnolia Street and John C. Calhoun Drive around 6:30 a.m., just moments before the collision happened.

An in-car video camera captured the crash. It showed that immediately prior to the collision, several tractor-trailers traveling east on John C. Calhoun Drive passed through the rain-soaked intersection before Porter’s vehicle approached the flashing railroad track warning lights.

The in-car camera then shows the tractor stopping on the railroad tracks. As the camera records, the crossing arm comes down between the cab of the tractor and the trailer. The driver attempts to back up as a passenger car approaches.

After the 2013 Mack truck is thrown from the tracks, the officers are heard on the video calling for emergency crews to respond.

Several agencies responded to the collision site, including the Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Department of Public Utilities and Orangeburg County Emergency Services.

Traffic was blocked on John C. Calhoun Drive and other streets for several hours before the train was uncoupled at the wreck site to allow at least some flow of vehicles. Full flow of traffic wasn’t restored for seven hours after the collision.

After he was extricated from the demolished big rig, Porter was transported to the Regional Medical Center where authorities said he remained late Wednesday.

“He’s very fortunate, very fortunate,” ODPS Lt. Alfred Alexander said. “He’s lucky to be alive.”

Another immediate concern to the growing number of emergency crews was a utility pole that snapped at its base when struck by the truck as it was thrown off the roadway. Crews found the overhead utility lines had not broken or reached the ground.

DHEC crews learned the tractor-trailer lost some fuel but determined it wasn’t enough to warrant a clean-up crew. The tanker the tractor was pulling was empty.

Damage to the rig is estimated to be around $60,000 while the entire crossing arm apparatus had to be replaced.

Alexander said no charges have been filed, but may be pending.

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