truck train crash

Advocate photo by Ellyn Couvillion -- A freight train is worked on near the scene of a crash involving a garbage truck Friday morning. 

GONZALES — Despite a blowing warning horn, a freight train moving at 47 mph crashed early Friday into a garbage truck that was making its morning rounds, fatally throwing the truck driver from the vehicle and snarling traffic for hours, city police said.

The Innovative Waste Systems truck was crossing two sets of railroad tracks between East Railroad Street and North Felix Avenue in Gonzales to pick up trash from commercial customers on North Felix, police said.

Willie Hall, 1433 Daniels Street, Baker, the driver of garbage truck, apparently did not see the train while trying to cross the Kansas City Southern line, Gonzales Police Lt. Steven Nethken said. The crash occurred about 8:19 a.m.

East Railroad and North Felix run parallel to the railroad tracks that run through the city.

The Ascension Parish Coroner’s Office declared Hall dead at the scene Friday, Nethken said. The crew on the KCS train were not injured and no cars derailed, according to C. Doniele Carlson, spokeswoman for the railroad. 

The initial investigation shows the driver of the locomotive blew the horn 29 seconds before the crash and continued to try to signal the truck, Nethken said.

At the time of the crash, the train was moving two mph slower the 49 mph speed limit for trains in the city, Nethken said. He added that it took the train 52 seconds after the crash to come to a complete stop.

The railroad crossing where the crash happened has neither flashing lights nor crossing gates that lower to block traffic from going over the tracks when a train is nearby, Nethken said.

The crossing does have "crossbucks," however, the common "X"-shaped signs that mark a railroad crossing, Nethken said. The crossing also has a stop sign and a yield sign, Carlson added.

The train wreck scrambled traffic in Gonzales for about six hours Friday. Until about 2:18 p.m., Nethken said, only two crossings over the rail line were open in the city, at Purpera and Coolidge avenues.

Though the site of the collision is a little-traveled area, the halted train extended farther northwest of the crash. The engine was stopped just past North Burnside Avenue, blocking the main north-south route through Gonzales for hours.

Nethken said officers had to separate the train in two and move the locomotive and some cars up the line to get access the smashed truck.

He said the crash remains under investigation.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.