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Runaway Truck Crashes into Narrow Gauge Railway Locomotive

June 25, 1987

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) _ A runaway truck rig slammed into a locomotive of a historic narrow gauge railroad Thursday, causing an estimated $50,000 damage and injuring the truck driver, officials said.

Neil Fox, who suffered a broken leg and foot, lost his brakes while driving down steep Hesperus Hill on U.S. 160 some 15 miles outside of Durango, the Colorado State Patrol said.

″It was one heck of a roller coaster ride,″ said Colorado State Trooper Bob Benefiel. He estimated that the truck, loaded with 60,000 pounds of potatoes, was traveling 70-80 mph when it left the highway and careened 500 feet across an open lot and into the locomotive.

The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, used in the 19th century for transporting miners from Durango to the silver mining town of Silverton, is operated as a tourist attraction. Mountain climbers also use the three-foot gauge railroad to reach trailheads to begin their hikes.

Another trucker, Ken Lisoubee of Salt Lake City, said he was behind Fox’s truck when he noticed it leave U.S. 160, kicking up a cloud of dust.

″I asked him on the CB if he was OK. He said, ‘No, I’m in trouble and need help.’ His engine had quit. He came back on the road and then I lost him,″ Lisoubee said.

Fox, 26, of Colorado Springs, probably lost pressure in his brakes when his engine quit, Benefiel said. The truck driver made it around several sharp curves on his way toward Durango, but sideswiped three vehicles in a used-car lot as he neared town.

At an intersection with U.S. Highway 550, Fox plowed straight ahead, up an embankment and through a chain-link fence.

Train mechanics John Hood and Gilbert Sanchez were inspecting Engine No. 473 for its first run of the day.

″I have no idea what made me turn to look over my shoulder. All I saw was the belly of the truck, the underside as it came over the bank, coming at us,″ Hood said.

″He hollered at me to run,″ said Sanchez, ″and I couldn’t tell at first why he said it. Then I saw the debris flying - it was coming through the fence then.″

It took rescue crews about 45 minutes to cut Fox free from the wreckage.

The engine was knocked off the tracks, and the railroad estimated damage to the locomotive at $50,000.