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CSX train’s speed didn’t cause crash with dump truck, deputy says

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ADAMS CENTER — The northbound CSX train that crashed into a dump truck at a private crossing Monday morning was accelerating to 40 mph after leaving a 25 mph speed zone in Adams Center, according to a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy.

Deputy Travis F. Alcombrack said, however, that it was “a weird coincidence” that Monday was the first day the higher speed limit took effect on that stretch of track.

“The speed of the train had nothing to do with the accident,” he said. “It was because the (truck) operator failed to yield the right of way.”

The freight train of five locomotives and 41 cars crashed into the dump truck at the King’s Quarry driveway north of Kellogg Road. The private crossing has no signals or barriers, but the train’s operator did blow the whistle, Mr. Alcombrack said.

The driver of the truck, Andrew J. Beeman, suffered a fractured sternum and facial fractures and bruises. He was treated at a Syracuse hospital and released later Monday. He has not yet been interviewed by police.

Monday was the first day CSX trains could increase their speed from 25 to 40 mph on the 40-mile section of track between Adams Center and Antwerp, which includes 22 public at-grade highway crossings, although a slow-down order by CSX requires the trains to travel at 25 mph in the hamlet of Adams Center.

Mr. Alcombrack said there was not enough time for the train’s operator, Marc H. Fradette of Central Square, to apply the train’s brakes when the truck appeared.

“He was blowing his horn when he approached because he knows of that crossing there, and he said he pulls them at every crossing,” Mr. Alcombrack said.

Though there is a slight curve in the track at the crossing, visibility for motorists crossing there is relatively good, Mr. Alcombrack said.

“The sun could have had an effect when it’s just breaking the trees, but I can’t know without talking to the driver,” he said.

CSX spokesman Robert T. Sullivan said in an email that the company is cooperating with authorities in their investigation. But he declined to provide information about the company’s policy for installing lights and barriers at private crossings.

“We remind motorists to exercise caution and always expect a train at highway-rail grade crossings,” he said.

Mr. Beeman, who has been employed by King’s Quarry for about a year, was delivering a load of sand that he had picked up at the pit neighboring the track, said Brandy J. Banri, manager of the Adams Center company. Ms. Banri said the absence of a light or barrier at the intersection has not been a concern for the small business, which has 10 employees.

“It was just an accident, and freaky things happen,” she said.

CSX trains now pass through Watertown at least four times daily between Syracuse and Massena, said Lawrence A. Girard, a train hobbyist who serves as a volunteer engineer for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Two trains with mixed freight make northbound trips during the morning, then return during the evening. A third CSX train makes three trips per week to Alcoa in Massena to pick up loads of aluminum ore.

Mr. Girard said trains also occasionally make shorter trips from Watertown, traveling north to Fort Drum and Gouverneur and south to Pulaski.

“Cars that are dropped off at various places are picked up by that local train,” said Mr. Girard, who served as a network technician at Fort Drum for 32 years before retiring in 2007.

A total of about five to 10 trains per day operate at any given time on the railroad, which connects a variety of communities between Syracuse and the Montreal area, according to CSX.

The last time a train crash occurred in Adams Center was Feb. 23, 1963, according to Times archives. Sterling B. Oyong escaped injury by jumping out of his 1959 convertible before it rammed into a southbound New York Central ore train at the North Street crossing. He was driving the car west in a heavy snowstorm and didn’t see the train until it was too late.

The 73-year-old Adams Center native, who now lives in Hilton, was surprised to learn about the crash.

“They don’t happen that often, and my guess is they’ve been crossing there forever,” he said Tuesday.

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