LITTLE FALLS, N.J. (AP) — A commuter train slammed into a tractor-trailer in northern New Jersey in the morning fog Wednesday, injuring 10 people including a school crossing guard who was seriously injured by flying debris.
The truck carrying hundreds of buckets of paint had crossed the tracks and unsuccessfully attempted to make a sharp left turn when the driver backed up to try again, according to a NJ Transit spokesman.
At that moment, the crossing gates began to lower, signaling a train approaching. The truck was unable to get off the tracks in time.
"It was a matter of circumstance, unfortunately," spokesman John Durso Jr. said.
Eight of the 10 injuries were considered minor, Durso said. In addition to the crossing guard, an NJ Transit employee aboard the train suffered serious injuries. The nature of the injuries was not immediately known. Seventy-one people, including crew, were on the train bound for Hoboken.
The driver of the truck, 23-year-old Jaswinder Singh of Carteret, was in the truck's cab when the train hit and suffered a minor shoulder injury, Little Falls police Chief John Dmukowski said. Singh was charged later Wednesday with a railroad crossing violation and careless driving, an NJ Transit spokeswoman said.
A person who answered the phone at Malhi Transport, the truck's owner, hung up when asked about the accident.
Jarrad Navarro was getting ready for work at his mother's house, which sits about 50 yards from the railroad crossing, at about 8:15 a.m.
"I heard a loud boom, it sounded like a transformer blowing," he said. "I ran out and I saw the truck and then I saw the crossing guard lying on the ground. It was pretty scary."
The scene is near a private school and a few blocks from a public elementary school.
The accident left the truck's trailer crumpled and knocked over on its side next to the tracks. Yellow plastic cans of paint littered the road and tracks, and a utility pole next to the tracks was nearly severed in half.
Fog enveloped the area a few blocks from an elementary school Wednesday morning, but Durso said it was too early to say if poor visibility played a role in the crash. The train took approximately 400 feet to come to a stop, he said. He confirmed that work had been done recently on the gates but said they were operating normally.
The accident site abuts a neighborhood that is surrounded on three sides by the Passaic River and is one of the most flood-prone areas in northern New Jersey.