Three hurt in another train-truck accident



BENTON - Three teenagers were injured, one critically, late Wednesday night when a coal train slammed into a pickup truck at a railroad crossing on Benton's south side.

Those injured in the accident that occurred at approximately 11:30 p.m. include Nathan Watkins, Dustin Lynch and Christopher Morris, all 17 and all Benton residents.

All three are seniors at Benton High School.

Watkins was the driver of the truck and received major injuries. He was airlifted from the scene of the accident and taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. A hospital spokesperson reported Thursday that Watkins was in critical but stable condition. Lynch and Morris both received minor injuries and were treated at Franklin Hospital in Benton and released.

Authorities said Watkins was traveling south on Pope Street in Benton when he attempted to cross the tracks in front of the oncoming train. Watkins failed to clear the crossing and his pickup truck was struck broadside by the westbound train.

The impact of the crash pushed the truck more than 700 feet down the railroad track before the train was brought to a stop.

The Pope Street crossing does not have crossing gates but it is equipped with lights that were working at the time of the accident.

Lynch and Morris were able to exit the truck through the passenger door after the train came to a stop but Watkins had to be extricated from the vehicle by rescue personnel from the Benton Fire Department.

Rocky Morris, father of Christopher Morris, said the three teens had been at his house, only about four blocks from the crash site, throughout the evening Wednesday and had left only minutes before to get something to eat. The accident took place on the return trip to the Morris home.

Morris said his son actually called home on a cell phone from the crash scene. Morris said when he arrived he immediately realized the accident was much more serious that he had first thought.

"When I saw how far the truck was down the track I realized just how serious it was," Morris said. "It is every parent's nightmare; it's one of the most devastating things you could walk up on. Personally, I think God had his hand on all three of those boys. It could have been a lot worse."

Morris said he spoke with the engineer of the train at the crash site and was told that the train was traveling approximately 28 miles per hour in an area where trains normally travel 35 to 40 mph.

"He told me that he saw the truck approaching the crossing and said out loud to himself 'don't try it, boys' and then the next thing he knew the contact was made," Morris said. "He said he immediately threw the brakes on but it took him that far to stop."

The car-truck crash involving the three Benton boys comes in the same week as a fatal SUV-train crash in Marissa Monday that claimed the life of 43-year-old Tina Porter, her 13-year-old daughter Alayssa, and 13-year-old Donna Calvert. A fourth passenger in the vehicle, 12-year-old Julie Seymour, was critically injured.

Porter was transporting the three girls to Marissa Junior-Senior High School when the fatal accident took place.

While ending with different results, the two separate vehicle-train crashes are eerily similar. Porter was also traveling through a crossing equipped with only lights and no gates when her Chevrolet Trailblazer was struck broadside by a coal train. The impact of that crash sent the vehicle airborne and all four occupants were ejected.

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