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One Killed, Four Injured In Fiery Crash Of Truck, Train

October 31, 1987

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ A slow-moving freight train smashed into a tanker truck filled with 8,000 gallons of gasoline, igniting a fiery explosion, killing a train crewman and injuring four other men, officials said.

″It was a big blaze. That’s all you could see - a big blaze,″ Joseph Crite, who was working at a nearby fuel terminal, said following the accident Friday afternoon. ″When it blew, it covered all three of the engines.″

The flames shot 100 feet into the air, and black smoke could be seen 16 miles away, witnesses said. The smoke forced nearby businesses to close for the day, said Assistant Police Chief Dave Williams.

The truck was straddling the railroad tracks, waiting to turn onto U.S. 421, when the train hit it, splitting the vehicle in two, authorities said.

″I told my boss, ‘That train is going to hit that truck,’ and it did,″ said Joe Blackburn, who saw the accident from an oil tank farm where he works. ″The train wasn’t going very fast, it was just creeping along, but there was no way it could stop.″

The crossing has a sign warning motorists to stop before the tracks, but few drivers do, said J.W. Atkins, superintendent of the tank farm.

″It’s so far back that you can’t see good onto the highway,″ he said. ″It’s easier to turn if you pull all the way up to the intersection.″

The train, heading from Greensboro to Winston-Salem, had 57 cars and three locomotives, Norfolk Southern Corp. spokesman Neil Monroe said in Atlanta. Four cars were carrying sulfuric acid, Monroe said.

Three hours after the accident, emergency workers found the dead man’s body under firefighting foam between the third locomotive and the burned-out shell of the tanker’s cab.

A Mount Airy funeral home identified the man as Paul Allen Cruise, 39, of Dobson.

The train’s engineer, 46-year-old Charles Franklin Singer, was in critical condition today at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem with second-degree burns over 70 percent of his body, said hospital spokeswoman Kathy McIlwain.

Truck driver Anthony Clark Crawford, 25, of Greensboro was treated at a Greensboro hospital for head and hand injuries and released Friday night, an emergency room worker said.

The other two train crew members were treated at a Greensboro hospital and released, officials said.

The truck belonged to Bralley-Willett Tank Lines Inc. of Greensboro. C.J. Webster, the manager, said the driver had filled the truck just before the accident.

″That’s a well-traveled road,″ Webster said, ″and that’s long been a dangerous intersection.″

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