A tractor-trailer driver slammed his big rig into the side of an AmTrak train at a public crossing in a rural Nevada town on Friday. The collision ripped several of the train cars apart and caused a terrible fire. The LA Times reported at least 6 people, including the truck driver, were killed and scores were injured.

The passenger train was travelling from Chicago to California at the time of the crash. Two of the passengers on the train were from Wilmington, North Carolina. Grandfather Jay Peterson and his grandson Chris Lachance planned for their train journey to be a great summer adventure – destined for a toy train convention – but it was full of more excitement than they expected. The two North Carolina citizens stayed calm during the disaster and provided much needed help and aid to those who were injured.

ABC News Channel 3 interviewed the two heroes: “We were going through the desert of Nevada, and we felt these three bumps; bump, bump, bump,” Peterson explained. “When we saw the damage to the train, that was a whole new thing. Then when we started seeing people that were bloody, that also added a lot, and you had to feel for those people.”

The cause of the crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Firefighter Nation reported that eyewitnesses, who included two other semi-truck drivers who were following the at-fault truck driver in a convoy, stated that they watched the tractor-trailer skid for approximately 100 yards before smashing through the railroad crossing gates and into two double-decker cars of the 10 car train.

The most likely cause of the crash, given the long line of sight and clear visibility, is truck driver fatigue and excessive speed. The truck driver most likely did not recognize the crossing train until it was too late to stop. Truck driver fatigue is an issue in approximately 40 percent of all truck crashes. Too often, truck companies force their drivers to drive more hours than are legally allowed. Drivers have to choose between breaking the law and keeping their jobs. The industry calls this type of driving “forced dispatch,” meaning that the company dispatcher forced the driver back out onto the road against the driver’s will.

At Davis Law Group, we investigate every tractor-trailer accident with an eye toward truck driver fatigue. Even when the truck driver’s log books do not show an obvious violation, we dig deep to try and expose the many factors that can lead to a truck driver being fatigued. For more information on truck driver fatigue, visit our Truck Accidents page.

Here is a video from the scene of this crash. Warning! This video contains graphic content: