City-owned truck slams into light rail train

January 28, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A city worker's attempt to install a police surveillance camera went awry yesterday when an unattended truck he was working on suddenly lurched forward and slammed into the side of a light rail train.

Several passengers aboard the train, which derailed, complained of neck and back injuries. Accounts put the number of injured at between four and 20. One city employee either fell or jumped from the truck's elevated bucket and a second worker was injured when he was hit by the rolling vehicle.

The noon accident near the Mount Royal station at Maryland Institute, College of Art forced officials to close part of the rail line for 2 1/2 -hours and bus passengers between stops at Camden Yards and West North Avenue.

Details were sketchy yesterday, and neither state Mass Transit Administration nor city Department of Public Works officials could say why the truck abruptly moved forward. Police said they were investigating the brakes to see whether they had been properly set or gave way.

But one train passenger, Blair Kirssin, said he believes the pantograph -- the extendable arm that links the top of the train to the overhead power lines -- clipped the bucket, dragging the truck into the passing train.

The impact, Kirssin said, "felt like the train derailed and it was going to flip over. I didn't know what happened. People were all looking around. You could tell it was something bad."

Kirssin was taken by ambulance to Maryland General Hospital and treated for an injured back and neck. The 26-year-old who lives near Fort McHenry had boarded the light rail at Baltimore and Howard streets and was on his way to his job at a mortgage company in Hunt Valley.

The impact of the city-owned 2-ton orange cherry picker was severe enough to derail the 20-ton rail car. The front of the truck became wedged at a coupling, folding the hood, engine and windshield into the front seat.

The injured city workers were identified as Dennis Weisel and Mike Stevenson, who was in the bucket that had been raised about 6 feet when the accident occurred. Both were treated for minor injuries at Maryland Shock Trauma Center and were expected to be released last night.

No one was in the cab of the truck and one unidentified worker was directing traffic. Weisel, 40, was standing in front of the truck and Stevenson, 47, was in the elevated bucket. Public Works officials could not say if proper procedures were followed.

"[Stevenson] saw that the accident was going to occur, and he jumped out of the cherry picker before it slammed," said Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works.

The workers were in the process of installing a surveillance camera atop a 28-foot pole near where the northbound tracks cross Mount Royal Avenue, west of Lyric Opera House and north of Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The camera is to be linked to a city police koban, or kiosk, that is being built at nearby Penn Station. Officers stationed at the kiosk monitor the immediate area and use the cameras to keep tabs on dozens of surrounding blocks.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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