Ponchatoula, LA Train And Truck Collision, Dec 1995


Ponchatoula, La. - Amtrak's City of New Orleans passenger train crashes into a pickup truck Thursday afternoon, killing two adults and three children, railroad and city officials said.
The accident happened at 3:30 p.m. about a half mile from City Hall. The impact of the crash knocked the engine out of the pickup and pushed the body of the vehicle more than a half-mile up the tracks before it came to a stop.
Mayor Julian Dufreche said the Chicago bound passenger train broadsided the pickup but did not derail. Nobody aboard the train was injured, according to Amtrak spokesman Rob Borella in Washington.
Police Chief Tom Gideon said the train routinely travels at roughly 80 mph through the crossing.
Mr. Borella said he did not know the train's speed. He said there were no electronic warning devices or barriers at the crossing, only a railroad crossing sign.
Police identified the driver of the truck as IRMA BRUMFIELD, 54. The other victims were identified as passenger LAWANDA PATTERSON, 26, her twin 2-year-old sons, MICHAEL and MIKEL, and her 4-year-old daughter ALEXIAS LIVERS.
Chief Gideon said there was no indication that the train engineer was at fault. "I don't think she
[the pickup driver] was trying to beat the train," he said. "I think she was just not paying attention and didn't see it."
Emergency crews worked for more than an hour to cut the bodies out of the crumpled pickup, some holding up blankets to block the view of onlookers.
The victims were placed in black body bags and carted away in ambulances.
Ponchatoula is about 40 miles northwest of New Orleans in southeastern Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish.
Chief Gideon angrily criticized Amtrak for failing to adhere to the city's ordinances limiting trains to a maximum of 35 mph. He said Amtrak has indicated that a federal regulation supersede local ordinances and allow the higher speeds.

Dallas Morning News Texas 1995-12-15