WILLS POINT (CBSDFW.COM) – A freight train barreled into a stalled tanker truck early Thursday morning in Wills Point, about 50 miles east of Dallas, causing a fiery explosion that rattled nearby homes but caused no injuries.
Pictures from the scene showed flames shooting high into the sky in the moments after the 1:20 a.m. crash. “I basically heard a series of booms, and then got a call from the chief that he could see the fireball from where he lives, which is out in the country,” said Wills Point Mayor Deby Frye. “They sounded like a small propane tank, like a propane tank would sound blowing up, but a series, larger.”
The driver of the truck managed to escape just before the Union Pacific train struck his vehicle. Officials said that his truck got stuck on the railroad tracks while crossing near the intersection of Commerce Street and Highway 80 in the Van Zandt County town. None of the railroad cars derailed in the crash.
Crews had to bring in heavy equipment to open the locked train cars and help clean up the wreckage. Only two people were on board the train, as it traveled from Fort Worth to Arkansas. It was not carrying any hazardous materials. The tanker truck, however, was loaded with gasoline. That fuel spilled and burned, with most of the flames being extinguished by sunrise.
Residents near the crash site — about 50 homes total — were asked to leave the area for safety reasons. “Our biggest concern right now is people with respiratory problems or elderly people that might inhale the fumes or the smoke, and we have taken care of that at this time,” said Wills Point Police Department Chief Scott Johnson on the scene. “We have not had any injuries or deaths as of yet, and we don’t anticipate there will be any.”
Frye said that she has been concerned about the railroad tracks crossing through Wills Point for some time, believing that those tracks are not fit for the traffic that flows through the area. She now plans to talk with Union Pacific officials about this issue.
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