BLUNT, S.D. - A semi-truck tractor hauling two trailers full of wheat crashed into a freight train at a crossing on U.S. Highway 14 at the bottom of a long hill on the west side of Blunt, South Dakota about 3 p.m., Thursday, 20 miles northeast of Pierre.
The driver was taken quickly away by ambulance; with lights flashing and at a fast rate, and the ambulance was within about 10 miles of Pierre by about 3:45 p.m., heading for Avera St. Mary’s Hospital.
At about 5:45 p.m., Thursday, Tony Mangan, spokesman for the South Dakota Highway Patrol, said that the driver was being treated for his injuries.
At about 10:30 p.m., Thursday, Mangan identified the truck driver as Colt Brink, 16, of Pierre. Two men who came on the crash gave aid to Brink and pulled him out of the mangled cab before a fire engulfed it.
No other information about the driver’s condition was released on Thursday by the patrol, which was in charge of the investigation of the crash.
Traffic was detoured for hours around Blunt because of the crash. At 9:15 p.m., Thursday, crews still were cleaning up grain and debris from the highway and railroad crossing and the detour was expected to remain in place for some time, Mangan said.
Eastbound traffic was rerouted by deputies, off of Highway 14, north on U.S. Highway 83 at the intersection three miles west of Blunt. Drivers coming from east of Blunt were directed to go north through Blunt to take gravel roads north and west around the scene.
The eastbound truck-tractor’s cab ended up turned to face west in the west-bound lane of Highway 14 after it crashed into the side of the locomotive.
The truck’s cab was so mangled that it was difficult to recognize what make of truck it was, except that it was a conventional-style cab, said men at the scene familiar with trucking.
Most, if not all, of the approximately 800 bushels of wheat from the front semi-trailer was piled on the highway, around the twisted metal of the cab and the front trailer. The second semi-trailer remained mostly intact with its load of wheat, upright and partly in the south ditch.
The truck had come from the west, down a long hill from the cemetery, and hit the second of two locomotives of a Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern train of grain cars headed northwest.
The truck knocked the locomotive off the rails but not off the track bed and the train moved about 50 feet or more after the collision.
Local residents said trains usually cross the highway there at about 20 mph.
The truck cab, which appeared to have been red, was bent back, pointing nearly west in the westbound lane. The front trailer was damaged badly, too, sitting nearly north and south across the roadway.
There are no barriers or crossing arms at the crossing, which has “cross-buck” railroad signs with red lights that flash when a train is approaching, said local residents. They said that normally, the red, flashing lights are visible at a distance.
But, the long hill can make it difficult to stop a loaded semi-tractor-and-trailer rig at the crossing, said the local residents. Trucks hauling fuel or other flammable loads, and school buses are required to stop at the crossing.
The truck driver was coming from the Onida area, apparently hauling the wheat to a grain elevator to the east of Blunt, local residents said.
Sgt. Jon Stahl of the state highway patrol was in charge of the crash scene and referred all media questions to Tony Mangan, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.
Firefighters from Pierre, including Chief Ian Paul, responded to assist the Blunt Volunteer Fire Department and left by about 4 p.m.
By about 5 p.m., crews began cleaning up the wheat from the roadway, removing the truck wreckage and getting the train moved from the crossing.
The work was ongoing at 9:15 p.m. and the detour around Blunt still was in effect.
A call to a spokesman for the RCPE Railroad was not returned on Thursday night.
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the site as on U.S. Highway 34.)