Massive train derailment in Tennessee on Dec. 2022 – the truck driver arrested

A massive train derailment in Tennessee on Dec. 2022 occurred when a Norfolk Southern train struck an oversized load truck. This collision caused tree engines and ten rail cars to overturn from the tracks. The driver of the semi-trailer, Jorge Luis Cruz – Vega was arrested for felony reckless endangerment.

Collegedale Police Department in their report stated that on Wednesday, December 20, 2022, the Police, Firefighters, and emergency service of Collegedale, Hamilton, Tennessee, and Chattanooga responded to a train derailment. The accident occurred at the railroad crossing in the 10000 block of Apison Pike, in Collegedale, Tennessee, near the Chattanooga and Georgia Border.

The truck driver Jorge Luis Cruz – Vega hauled an oversized load of 137– foot concrete bridge section through Collegedale, TN. He followed the first escort car across the railroad. The driver failed to ensure that his tractor-trailer could clear the railroad after crossing it. Luis Cruz – Vega stopped at a red traffic light, traveling only halfway through the railroad. He veered into the oncoming lane of traffic.

At that moment Norfolk Southern train was on the way and the locomotive struck the semi-trailer and concrete bridge span. This collision pushed 3 engines and 10 rail cars out of the tracks resulting in enormous damage to the rail system and infrastructure around the collision area.

Police officials stated that the semi-trailer driver reacted when the crossing arms activated. He attempts to clear the tracks, but his actions were not successful.

In this accident, the train’s engineer and conductor were injured. They were urgently transported to a hospital.

Police accused the driver of not making contact with Norfolk Southern Railroad and informing them about his route. Cruz – Vega also stopped without first completely clearing the railroad. The correct procedure is that the drivers should not stop driving until the vehicle completely clears the crossing.

The drivers of dangerous and oversized loads must first stop and check that there is nothing in the path of the tractor-truck blocking the way while passing the railroad. Reportedly, truck drivers often don’t follow this procedure.

The truck driver Jorge Luis Cruz – Vega was arrested and charged with failure to yield, a registration violation, and a felony reckless endangerment. He is out on a $10,000 bond. Cruz – Vega is expected to appear in court on April, 12 of 2023.

It is still unclear if Jorge Luis Cruz – Vega is the owner of the company or just the driver. Also, it is questioned whether it is the responsibility of the driver to know all regulations regarding the load he is driving or that is the responsibility of company officials. It is unclear whose responsibility it is to obtain all the permits necessary for transporting such cargo. 

The question is who should contact the competent authorities and inform them about the route of the tractor-trailer hauling oversized load. What is the role of escort vehicles in front and behind the semi-trailer? Another question that arises is whether the train’s engineer and conductor could have reacted earlier and reduced the speed of the train.

The question of the responsibility of all actors in this massive train derailment in Tennessee on Dec. 2022 remains open. Several more lawsuits against those responsible are expected.