Plant City, FL Train Crashes Into Truck, Oct 1977


Plant City, Fla. (UPI) - A speeding Amtrak passenger train slammed broadside into a camper-pickup truck apparently trying to beat it to a crossing Sunday night killing all 10 persons in the vehicle.
The truck exploded in flames and was pushed half a mile down the track by the Chicago-to-St. Petersburg Floridian. The dead included three adults and seven children ranging in age from 1 to 10.
The accident occurred about two hours after another Amtrak passenger train struck and killed a 7-year-old girl in Auburndale, a central Florida community about 20 miles east of here. The victim in that accident was identified as MELISSA SUE OYSTER.
Police said the dead here were believed to be migrant workers of Latin origin, but none of the victims was identified. A purse with identification cards in it indicated some of the victims were from Rushnell.
The bodies of two adults and two children were found in the charred wreckage, burned beyond recognition. The bodies of the others were strewn along the Seaboard Coast Line tracks.
The body of a teen-age boy had a cast on his leg.
A police helicopter from Tampa hovered over the accident scene, shining its searchlight along the tracks as searchers checked the brushy area for more bodies.
None of the 40 passengers or the crewmen aboard the train was injured.
Witnesses in vehicles behind the truck said the crossing lights were flashing and the train's whistle was blowing. Engineer Pete Medley of Sanford, Fla., said he saw the truck approached the crossing but was unable to stop.
"I did everything in my power to stop it, but there just wasn't enough time," Medley said.
Witnesses said the driver of the pickup apparently thought he had time to beat the train to the crossing.
Eight of the dead were believed to have been riding in the camper portion of the vehicle - which was ripped from the pickup on impact - at the time.
Lester Evans, chief of the Dover Fire Department, said flames could be seen for a mile. He called the accident "the worst I've ever seen."
The train was only slightly damaged and did not leave the track. It resumed the trip to St. Petersburg about two hours after the accident.
The Floridian splits into two segments after it reaches Florida, with both segments keeping the same name. The train involved in the Auburndale fatality was southbound to Miami.
The train involved here had just left Lakeland, about 15 miles east of this strawberry-raising community, on the final leg of the Chicago-to-St. Petersburg run.

Logansport Pharos-Tribune Indiana 1977-10-03