NTSB ID: HWY11MH012
Event Type: Highway / Rail Crash
Location: Miriam, NV
Date: June 24, 2011
The information in this report is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.
On Friday, June 24, 2011, about 11:21 a.m. Pacific daylight time, a 2008 Peterbilt truck tractor in combination with two 2007 side-dump trailers was traveling north on U.S. Highway 95 (US 95) in the vicinity of Miriam, Churchill County, Nevada. The combination vehicle, owned and operated by John Davis Trucking, was not loaded and was occupied by a 43-year-old driver.
The combination vehicle was approaching a highway–rail grade crossing owned by the Union Pacific Railroad but also used by Amtrak passenger trains. At this location, US 95 is a two-lane, paved asphalt highway with a posted speed limit of 70 mph. In advance of the grade crossing, the highway incorporates a railroad crossing warning sign and pavement markings to alert motorists. The grade crossing was equipped with gates and flashing red lights to warn motorists of approaching trains. Pairs of lights were mounted on support poles adjacent to each edge of the highway and also on cantilevers extending over each lane of the highway.
At the same time that the combination vehicle was nearing the crossing, Amtrak train #5, the California Zephyr, was approaching from the northeast. The train was on a scheduled trip from Chicago, Illinois, to Emeryville, California. A video camera and microphone mounted externally to the front of the train revealed that as the train approached the crossing, the locomotive horn was being operated and the crossing gates were in the down position to block highway traffic. The combination vehicle failed to stop before reaching the grade crossing and collided with the train. Tire marks from the rear of the combination vehicle were found in the northbound travel lane, beginning at a point about 320 feet south of the grade crossing. The tire marks eventually crossed over the highway center line and into the southbound traffic lane before terminating at the crossing.
The train was comprised of two locomotives, a baggage car, a crew car, and eight passenger cars, in that order. The truck tractor struck the left side of the crew car and became embedded in the train car. A postcrash fire ensued. The fire consumed the truck tractor, the crew car, and the passenger car directly behind it. As a result of the accident, the truck driver, a train crew member, and four train passengers were killed.
Media Contact: Peter Knudson, 202-557-1350 (cell), 202-314-6100 (NTSB HQ)