Investigations begin into Grovetown head-on train collision

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August 4, 2006

Two trains on the same track, one stopped, one trying to stop.

A recipe for disaster...and lots of folks in Grovetown are feeling very lucky today.

It shattered the early morning calm in downtown Grovetown, and has shaken some folks so much they want to move.

At about 6:30 a.m., two CSX freight trains ran head-on into each other near Ford and Railroad streets, not far from Grovetown Elementary School.

Emergency crews are still working to put the derailed cars back on the track.

The crash happened right in the middle of everything. Grovetown Elementary is on one side of the tracks, and people's homes are on the other.

The impact was strong enough to knock four cars off the track right across the street from Cheryl Watkins' home.

"I heard this loud boom and I knew it was a train, but it sounded like a train derailing or something," she recalls.

The head-on collision happened hours before Carissa Whitaker took her preschooler to the first day of school.

"It's scary, because it could have been worse," Whitaker says. "I'm just glad it's gravel and not chemicals or anything."

The northbound train, with a full load of coal, was stopped on the tracks.

The southbound train was able to put on the emergency brakes.

Capt. Gary Owens with Grovetown DPS says this scene could have been much worse if the train had been going full speed.

"The one thing we looked at was no containment breeches, or any kind of diesel," he says. "Nothing has been damaged. We're very fortunate."

Crews cleaned up the scene this afternoon.

Tracking devices in the engine cab will tell investigators and people living nearby how the two trains ended up like this.

"Especially with our house so close," Whitaker says. "I will find a new place to move, away from the tracks."

It's a first day of school Carissa Whitaker and her preschooler won't soon forget.

Officers say the five people who were on board the trains are okay.

They are still investigating the cause of the crash and the speed of both trains.

The maximum speed for trains going through Grovetown is 49 miles per hour.