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Two burned as tractor-trailer, train collide in Buffalo

A truck driver and a train conductor suffered burns when their vehicles collided and burst into flames Tuesday morning across from Buffalo RiverWorks.

The train conductor, who was stationed at the back of the freight train, suffered burns to 18 percent of his body – including his face, according to Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. Both he and the trucker, who escaped his burning cab with minor injuries, were taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment.

Authorities didn’t provide victims’ names later Tuesday, but said the train conductor and truck-driver were both in their 40s. They were both listed in stable condition late Tuesday at the Erie County Medical Center. A spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department described the injuries as non-life-threatening.

The accident occurred shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday in the 300 block of Ganson Street, where the train – consisting of an engine and three box cars – was moving backwards. The truck, heading toward Ganson Street with a full load of flour, collided with the last box car, which was empty.

One of the natural gas cylinders used to power the truck ruptured, the fire commissioner said. Pieces of the truck cab were propelled by the blast.

“The tractor-trailer was burning but it was also impinging upon the train,” Whitfield said. “There was some insulation within the train that was burning.”

“There was no reports of hazardous materials at this location,” the fire commissioner said. “There was no danger to any persons around here.”

Buffalo firefighters remained on the scene into early Tuesday afternoon to deal with issues related to the truck’s natural gas cylinders. Some firefighters were going to be examined at ECMC, as well.

The stretch of Ganson Street where the accident occurred remained closed to traffic after 5 p.m. Tuesday as investigators took measurements and reconstructed the scene. The train was moved away from the area, but the mangled, charred shell of the tractor’s cab remained.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by Buffalo police and CSX Corporation. The truck’s cab was destroyed; fire officials estimated the damage at $600,000. A tour bus was close to the scene when the collision occurred.

“We were crossing the Michigan Avenue Bridge and we stopped for a moment, and at that instant, we heard an explosion,” said Larry Cohen, who was on the bus with more than 50 people when the explosion occurred a couple hundred feet away. “As we bared left onto Ganson Street, with General Mills on the right, we saw a billow of smoke, and flames engulfing the box car and truck cab.”

Also on the bus was Mark Goldman.

“We almost hit it. We were very, very close,” Goldman said. “It was an inferno, really.”

News Staff Reporters Jordyn Reiland and Chris Jasper contributed to this report.