Catlett, VA Amtrak Train And Fire Truck Collision, Sept. 1989


Catlett, Va. -- (AP) -- A fireman atop a fire truck that sped across the path of an Amtrak train into a collision that killed two and injured 150 said Friday the last thing he remembers is mowing his lawn.
MICHAEL KIRK, 21, thinks he was riding in the jump seat directly behind the driver of the Catlett Volunteer Fire Department truck when it crossed the tracks.
Officials have declined to speculate on the cause of the collision Thursday evening about 50 miles from Washington, D.C.
"I don't remember anything," KIRK said by telephone Friday from his bed at the Washington Hospital Center. "The last thing I remember I was mowing the grass ..
then I was here."
Lucy Caldwell, a state police spokeswoman, said the firefighters were responding to a report of a blaze near a home on the other side of the tracks.
Amtrak officials said the Crescent, en route from New York to Atlanta and New Orleans, sounded its horn when it approached the crossing of the private drive alongside Virginia 28.
There was no crossing bar and no warning light at the crossing.
Ms. Caldwell said the fire truck had its air horn, siren and flashing red lights on at the time of the collision.
Two of the five firefighters on the truck were killed; at least 150 of the train's 379 passengers were injured. Most of the injuries to train passengers were minor.
KIRK, who joined the fire department about four months ago, was in fair condition.
"I feel all right ... just pretty sore," he said.
FRANKIE HERNDON, another firefighter, said he felt the truck cross the track "and the next thing I know, I woke up and I was in the hospital," HERNDON was treated at a hospital and released.
The third survivor on the truck, ERNEST COLBERT, was in serious condition at Fairfax Hospital.
Firefighters MARK MILLER, 23, and MATT SMITH, 22, both of Catlett, died at the scene.
"We're talking to witnesses, to the crew, to see why it happened," said Rachel Halterman.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1989-09-30