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Truck driver charged after train slices semi in half

Tractor trailer driver to face charges for track accident

TOPTON, Pa. - "I was sitting watching television and I heard this bang and I quick ran to the window and I saw half the trailer over there," said Charles Fritch of Topton.

Fritch was caught by surprise Wednesday evening after a Norfolk Southern freight train slammed into a tractor trailer, splitting the truck bed in half.

The driver, Alton Russell, 65, of Daytona, Florida, parked the truck on the tracks near the intersection of North Home and Center Avenues and went inside a diner to ask for directions, police said.

"I could not believe it. Why did he not just pull over here and hold up traffic over here a little bit instead of parking on the tracks like that?" said Fritch.

The accident caught the attention of many people in Topton, but some of them said this is not the first time there has been an accident on these tracks.

In fact, other residents can remember an accident in 2011 when a train hit another unoccupied vehicle sitting on the tracks.

"A car went across the tracks and made a left turn onto the tracks. I believe they were following a GPS," said Lisa Ziegler of Topton.

"I do not understand why. It is kind of obvious. It is a train track. It has the trussels and the lights and everything," said Christina Hein of Topton.

Many people cannot come to terms with why someone would park on the tracks and some even said that trucks do not belong on some roads in Topton.

"A truck should not be coming down here in the first place. There are too many trucks coming down here in a small town. They had two hit the stop sign last week," said Fritch. "The turns are not wide enough for these big trucks."

Russell was charged with causing catastrophe, risking catastrophe, criminal mischief, recklessly endangering another person and related offenses.

Fortunately, the truck was empty at the time and no one was injured, but damage to the train and warning lights exceeds $30,000.

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