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Truck firm in deadly Amtrak crash in Nevada had citations

SPARKS, Nev. — A Nevada trucking company under scrutiny for a fiery crash with an Amtrak train that left at least six dead has been cited repeatedly by state authorities for crashes, unsafe driving and operating a truck with tires so bald the vehicle had to be taken off the road.

A driver working for John Davis Trucking Co. of Battle Mountain smashed through crossing gates and into two double-decker cars of an Amtrak train Friday, killing the driver and five people on the train.

Federal records reviews by the Associated Press on Sunday show the Nevada Department of Public Safety cited the company for two crashes in the past two years, including one in February 2010 that injured a person in Washoe County. In a January inspection, authorities found tires on one company semitrailer truck so bald they deemed the rig an imminent hazard to public safety.

On Sunday, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen said that officials for the Churchill County Coroner Office continued to sift through the rubble of two rail cars gutted by the fire that burned extremely hot. He said they have asked at least one forensic anthropologist to assist.

"I think it was so hot that they want to make sure they are not missing anything," Allen said. "They want to figure out if there are any more bodies."

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said Sunday that five passengers remained unaccounted for. Amtrak says 204 passengers and 14 crew members were on the train, which was en route from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif. About 20 people were injured.

Investigators continued to look over the scene for any clues as to why the truck driver plowed through the railroad crossing.

National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Sunday that the flashing lights at the crossing guard, which are set to blink for 25 seconds before a train approaches, would have been visible from a half-mile away. if a motorist was driving at the highway's 70 mph speed limit. The investigation has not yet revealed how fast the driver might have been going, he said.

Two truck drivers and a train engineer watched helplessly as the semitrailer skidded the length of a football field, smashed through crossing gates and into the train before noon Friday.

The drivers were part of a three-truck convoy that saw the gates come down and the warning lights go off as the California Zephyr approached, Weener said Saturday.

Two drivers stopped, but the driver of the big rig in the lead did not, he said.

He said the engineer slammed on the emergency brakes, but the train, which was going about 78 mph in an 80-mph zone, traveled a half-mile more before it finally stopped. The truck smashed into two of the train's 10 cars.

Truck firm in deadly Amtrak crash in Nevada had citations 06/27/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 27, 2011 12:09am]
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