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    Default Four survive fire truck, train collision


    Burning Mountains Fire Protection District rescue truck was struck by a freight train between Silt and New Castle Saturday. The truck, driven by fireman Austin Coryell, was on a training drive Saturday around noon, said Burning Mountains Chief Brit McLin.

    The truck was in the middle of the track when the train bore down on it. According to the Colorado State Patrol, the collision occurred at approximately 12:30 p.m.

    "He said he thought the signal might be broken, and he did not see the train until its air horn went off," McLin said.

    The train caught the truck in the rear bumper, spinning it off the track and sending it down an embankment where it was stopped by a telephone pole.

    Cpl. Scott Gardener, of the Colorado State Patrol, said the railroad crossing "was not a full regulated crossing, with the bars that come down. But it has the bells and the flashing red lights and the railroad crossing sign.

    "The driver attempted to beat the train across tracks despite the railroad warnings and the engineer blowing the horn on the locomotive, as well," Gardner said.

    But McLin said the version he was told contradicts that.

    "The cab was already on the tracks when Coryell realized the train was coming. That's when he sped up to get across," he said.

    He said the engineer of the train told him he was afraid he would hit the center of the truck.

    "(Coryell) literally came within a foot of not making it," McLin said.

    The truck was badly smashed, but neither Coryell, who has been a volunteer with the department for about six months, nor three passengers were hurt.

    "Looking at the truck, I don't know how anyone survived," McLin said. "The wreck was so bad that the Jaws of Life that were on the truck were broken."

    "They're all pretty lucky," Gardner said.

    There was a 28-year-old male and his wife, 29, in the truck with Coryell, along with the couple's 3-year-old son. Apparently, Coryell was friends with the family, Gardner said.

    "He (Coryell) asked me if during his training he could take his boss and his boss' son for a ride," McLin said. "I don't recall him asking if the wife could go along, but I certainly wouldn't have denied the request. There were five seats with seat belts."

    Firemen keep their driving skills honed with periodic training drives, and McLin said he gave his permission for Coryell to take the drive.

    "We do allow the guys to give community rides," he said.

    McLin said the truck left the Silt Fire Station and headed south, crossed over the freeway, turning onto the river frontage road. Coryell drove on the frontage road to the next Interstate 70 overpass, then heading north, crossed the railroad tracks just east of Coal Ridge High School.

    While the truck was a total loss, some of the equipment on board was salvaged, McLin said.

    Coryell, McLin said, was "devastated" by the accident.

    "We are rescuers. We don't put people at risk. We aren't victims," he said. And when firemen become victims, "we don't handle that well."

    No disciplinary action is planned against Coryell, McLin said. No drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident.

    "He's one of us, and he'll stay one of us," McLin said.

    The State Patrol issued Coryell a citation for careless driving.

    Burning Mountains Fire Protection District covers 440 square miles, from the Mesa County line to the south to the Rio Blanco County line to the north, and includes the towns of New Castle and Silt.

    In addition to Burning Mountains volunteers, Garfield County Sheriff deputies, Rifle Fire Department, Silt Police Department and Colorado State Patrol responded to the accident.
    Buckle Up, Slow Down, Arrive Alive
    "Everybody Goes Home"

    IACOJ 2003

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