Driver arrested after crash derails train in Tennessee

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Updated Aug 17, 2023

An operator was arrested and charged with a felony after a nasty crash in December was caught on video and caused a major train derailment in Collegedale, Tennessee, near Chattanooga and the Georgia Border.

Video of the incident allegedly shows a train striking a 137-foot concrete bridge section hauled by driver Jorge Luis Cruz-Vega, instantly exploding the bridge section and derailing the train.

"On December 20, 2022," authorities "responded to a train derailment at the railroad crossing located in the 10000 block of Apison Pike," a release from Collegedale Police Department reads.

The police report the driver "proceeded across the railroad crossing behind his first escort car without first assuring his tractor trailer could completely clear the tracks. He also did not make contact or arrangements with Norfolk Southern Railroad about his delivery route."

The police also found the driver, while stopped halfway across the tracks, had veered into the oncoming lane of traffic, and not his own. 

"While stopped in the on-coming lane of traffic, Cruz-Vega’s tractor trailer and the concrete bridge span was struck by a Norfolk Southern locomotive, causing the train to derail," with three engines and 10 rail cars sliding off the tracks and "causing substantial damage to the rail system and other infrastructures," according to police. 

The train’s engineer and conductor were transported to the hospital with injuries.

Police charged Cruz-Vega with failure to yield, a registration violation, and felony reckless endangerment. Cruz-Vega is out on a $10,000 bond and due in court on April 12 of 2023.

Police posted Cruz-Vega's picture on Facebook announcing the arrest, but several commenters on the post came to his defense. 

One commenter who self -dentified as a "retired house box wide load hauler" said "don't go blaming the driver," and that any oversize, escorted load like that requires permits, which train conductors should be aware of. Others simply said the charges were harsh, and posting his picture was unnecessary as he's not a fugitive or missing, and that they struggle to imagine Cruz-Vega caused the damage intentionally.

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"I'm just confused as to why his face and name are being blasted. I haven't seen other posts with the names or faces of every arrest. I don't know the guy, but I can't imagine it being intentional," said one commenter. 

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