More details emerge in train, SUV collision

Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune

Emergency personnel on the scene where an SUV and train collided on County Road 715 Tuesday evening (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)


CULLMAN – More details are emerging about the events leading up to the Tuesday evening collision between an SUV and a train in Cullman County. The driver of the SUV remains hospitalized at UAB.

According to Cullman Police Department Lt. Jeff Warnke, the female driver of the SUV sideswiped another vehicle and left the scene before colliding with the train.

“She was westbound on County Road 715 and was driving on the wrong side of the road,” said Warnke. “The driver of the other vehicle realized she was about to be involved in a head-on collision, so she took evasive action. She got over in a ditch, but she was still struck. She was sideswiped by the SUV.”

Warnke said the first incident happened near the Phelan East subdivision.

Approximately a half-mile later, just before 8 p.m. on County Road 715 near Cullman-Jefferson Gas, the SUV ran in front of the oncoming train.

“She decided not to wait for the train. She tried to beat the train,” Warnke said. “The lights were flashing, the crossing arm was down. All the safety mechanisms for the crossing were in operation. She totally ignored those and attempted to cross.”

The train was a 100-car coal train, according to Warnke. It was not traveling at full speed when the collision happened.

“Based on information from the conductor, they had just stopped up in town to make a repair,” he said. “They had just started back up, and they were traveling at a low speed as they were approaching the crossing. They were at about half speed and were able to stop pretty quickly after the accident. It only took them probably four-tenths of a mile to stop the train.”

He continued, “She is very lucky. The conductor estimated they were going between 22-25 mph. That’s a 50-mph zone right there for the train.”

CPD Chief Kenny Culpepper said Officers Jonathan England and Joey Duncan, part of the CPD’s traffic homicide investigation team, traveled to UAB and secured blood samples from the driver of the SUV, who has not been identified.

Cullman Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director James Curtis said the woman was taken by ambulance to the UAB Trauma Center in Birmingham.

"Air Evac (Lifeteam) was en route to the scene, but it was determined they were not needed," said Curtis.

Curtis said the woman did not have to be extricated from the SUV, but she suffered what he described as significant injuries.

Working the scene were the Cullman Police Department, Hanceville Police Department, Cullman EMS, Cullman Fire Rescue and the Johnson's Crossing Volunteer Fire Department, which was the first unit to respond.

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