Driver killed when Amtrak train hits dump truck at Central Florida crossing

Troopers say truck driver killed in fiery crash south of Orlando

PINE CASTLE, Fla. - A driver was killed Thursday morning when an Amtrak train carrying 140 passengers crashed into a dump truck in Orange County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The truck driver, Seeram Matadial, 44, of Orlando, was ejected and killed in the crash, which occurred around 11 a.m. in Pine Castle, south of Orlando.

The train, Silver Star No. 91 traveling from New York to Miami and did not derail, but the truck burst into flames as it was pushed down the tracks.

Orange County fire officials said 11 train passengers were taken to hospitals with minor injuries. The train's conductor, from Jacksonville, was among two crew members injured.

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The Amtrak train left Penn Station in New York City at 11:02 a.m. Wednesday, came through Jacksonville on Thursday morning and was scheduled to arrive in Miami at 6:05 p.m. Thursday.

The uninjured passengers were taken to a nearby church as authorities investigated the crash and were later bused to an Amtrak station, where they would continue on to various destinations in South Florida.

Fire officials said the dump truck, which was carrying rocks, split in half and burst into flames.

More than 50 firefighters and 50 law enforcement personnel responded to the scene, officials said.

Retired Jacksonville Fire Rescue Lt. Jeff Gerbert said the impact threw the driver more than 100 feet from the truck, but he was dead by the time he and rescue personnel could get to him.

Gerbert, his brother, Steve -- a District Chief with JFRD -- and others boarded the train Thursday morning in Jacksonville.  After the crash, Jeff went to check on the truck driver while Steve tried to battle the flames.

"When we got out, we could see all the smoke, and then we saw what was left of the dump truck," Steve Gerbert said. "Underneath the train was all burning, all the pieces (of the truck) were burning. So I grabbed all the extinguishers I could from each car and went down the tracks, putting out all the fires. The locomotive and the truck were melted together."

Parts of the dump truck scattered across a debris field about a quarter-mile wide.

Since 2002, including Thursday's crash, four drivers and a passenger have been killed in four separate crashes with Amtrak trains at the same crossing, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.

A stop sign stands on either side of the tracks, owned by the Florida Department of Transportation, but there are no lights or railroad crossing arms.

"This intersection is not traveled by many vehicles," FHP Sgt. Kim Montes said.  "It's only used by vehicles going to the business behind the tracks.  Drivers have a responsibility.  If a train is coming, it has the right of way."

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