Truck driver survives devastating collision with train in Ottertail
Unharmed after a collision with a Canadian Pacific freight train, the driver of a grain truck commented that his "prayers were answered."
The full-size semi truck with a grain hopper was wrapped around the entire front end of the train, and pushed an estimated 700 feet through the city of Ottertail, according to Otter Tail County Deputy Mark Haberer.
The collision occurred about 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8. A relatively quiet track, trains are infrequent, said Haberer, who reported that the driver of the truck did not see the train until it was too late.
Eastbound traffic on Highway 108 was re-routed to county roads south and north of Ottertail for up to four hours, according to Fay Pary, who lives across a field from where the train came to rest near a residential neighborhood.
The train struck the truck a few blocks north of the Betty's Pantry café, pushed it across Minnesota Highway 108, and came to a stop with freight cars blocking 108 -- the main eastbound road out of Ottertail.
The name of the driver of the truck was not available Sunday.
"Visibly shaken" but very thankful is how Haberer described the driver of the truck after surviving the crash.
"A couple things saved him. The train is only going about 45 miles per hour on that particular track," Haberer said. Also, he added, the fact that the collision point was on the passenger side, and the size of the truck saved him.
"It was a lot different than getting his on the passenger side of a smaller truck or vehicle," Haberer said. "He had the cushion of the entire passenger said of the truck before it impacted the driver's side."
Ottertail rescue team members responded and performed a medical assessment of the driver. Miraculously, he was virtually unscathed.
"He really thought it was the end for him," said Haberer, who has served nine years with the OTC Sheriff's Department. "I've responded to train accidents, but never one were the driver walked away like that."
Also responding at the scene were Minnesota State Patrol officers and Canadian Pacific Railroad officials.
According to Fay Pary, they watched as heavy equipment was used to pry and pull the wreckage from the front of the train.
Zach Pary, 12, saw the wreckage on the front of the train and initially thought it was a locomotive with an immense plow attached to the front.
After the debris was removed, the train engine was evidently inspected and about four hours from the time of collision, the train departed under its own power, said Fay Pary.