A semitrailer hauling 5,600 gallons of starter fertilizer, or phosphate, became stuck on the high railroad crossing grade at VanBuren Street in Leesburg around 2:30 p.m. today. All Norfolk Southern train traffic was said to have been stopped, but that was not the case, which led to a scary few moments.
As this reporter was leaving the scene at 3:35 p.m. and heading northbound on Old SR 15 just passed CR 900 North, a southbound freight train showing no signs of slowing was heading toward the Leesburg intersection. A frantic call to 911 was made telling the dispatcher the train was traveling southbound approximately 45 to 50 miles per hour. By the time the train reached CR 800 North, its speed had dropped to 30 miles per hour. But would it get stopped in time?
Fortunately for the two Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department deputies – Rick Shepherd and Shane Bucher – and a half a dozen others still at the scene emptying the phosphate into other tanks, the train did get stopped. Even the officers, when seeing the train’s lights, became concerned and radioed communications about the train.
From initial reports at the scene of the railroad crossing, the unidentified driver for Triple J Trucking, Leesburg, was allegedly heading to Deatsman’s Grain and was attempting to get around train that had stopped and was blocking traffic further south. The driver, who was familiar with the high grade crossing, thought the trailer would make it over.
The dolly legs at the front of the trailer scrapped the pavement and became caught on the east rails. Reichert and Knepp Inc. wrecker service was called in to remove the trailer, however, it had to be emptied before attempts to free the trailer were made. Had the trailer not been emptied, it had the potential to break.
Norfolk-Southern officials had not yet arrived at the scene to determine what damage, if any, was done to the tracks.
Semitractors becoming stuck on that crossing is not unusual. There are no signs indicating it is a high grade crossing.