April 8, 2014

Train-car collision sends Dalton man to hospital (Updated 7 p.m.)

Rachel Brown
rachelbrown@daltoncitizen.com

— A Dalton man in his late 60s was at a Chattanooga hospital Tuesday afternoon after the Isuzu Rodeo he was driving collided with a train, leaving him “seriously injured,” officials said.

Dalton police said the train was traveling at “a low rate of speed” near the intersection of Tyler Street and Glenwood Avenue when the collision occurred around 10:30 a.m. The speed limit on the tracks through that area is 50 mph, according to a Norfolk Southern representative, but the train was only traveling around 25 mph. The impact was powerful enough to push the SUV all the way down to the next crossing at Long Street.

Police said in a press release that driver Rogelio Nieto-Martinez, 68, of Dalton, “was entering the intersection as the gates were coming down and then stopped for several seconds before lurching forward again and being hit in the passenger side by the approaching train.”

Witnesses told investigators the crossing gates were down and flashing lights were on. Police spokesman Bruce Frazier said the investigation is ongoing, but officials believe Nieto-Martinez may have had a medical emergency.

The train consisted of a locomotive and three freight cars.

Nieto-Martinez was taken to Hamilton Medical Center, then to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. An Erlanger spokeswoman said shortly before close of business Tuesday that Nieto-Martinez’s condition was “still being assessed.”

Norfolk Southern spokesman Richard Harris said the train was delivering freight to a local customer. None of the three crew members was injured.

“The train was at the location until about 11:30 (a.m.) or noon while the incident was being investigated,” Harris said.

Harris said there have been five collisions at the intersection since April 1977 when a train and automobile collided, injuring the driver of the car. In November 1985, another train collision with a car occurred, but the driver was out of the vehicle and uninjured. A similar incident happened in March 1986. In 1992, a driver of an automobile was injured in a collision with a train, and in December 2003, a pedestrian was injured.