Friday, June 25, 2004

Deadly fuel truck-train blast in St. Bernard

Compiled from Times-Picayune, staff and wire reports

CHALMETTE, La. - At least one person is dead and several others injured Friday morning a fuel tanker was struck by a train at St. Bernard Highway and Paris Road, setting off an explosion that could be seen from at least 20 miles away.

At mid-morning, a huge plume of smoke was visible from much of metropolitan New Orleans, as firefighters battled a blaze that reportedly involved the fuel truck and more than half-dozen train cars at the rail crossing, which is near the St. Bernard Parish Jail and a small refinery. The accident occurred between 10-10:30 a.m., and the fire was under control by 11, although firefighters were still spraying down rail cars at midday.

The contents of the fuel truck are currently unknown, but the driver reportedly was killed in the blast. Three people, including the driver, were airlifted by helicopter and taken to a local hospital. Highways in the area were shut down as a precaution, although there were no immediate evacuations.

One witness said the explosion was "like a nuke" . . . another saw the blast from the 16-mile bridge on the St. Tammany end of the Lake Pontchartain Causeway. A witness told the Times-Picayune that after the initial collision, there was a series of explosions as the fuel ignited.

St. Bernard authorities said that the fuel tanker truck was attempting to cross the rail crossing at St. Bernard Highway and Paris Road when it was struck by the oncoming train.


Times-Picayune Writer Steve Cannizaro, and The Associated Press contributed to this report