News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 24, 2013

Truck-train crash takes 3 lives

Police say alcohol may be factor in early-morning crash

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Police are still investigating a triple-fatality crash involving a train and a pickup truck that happened early Wednesday morning in northeastern Vigo County at Rio Grande Avenue and Gallagher Road.

Authorities identified those killed as Brian J. Rickard, 30, the driver, of Terre Haute, and passengers Ryan Lee Cook, 24, of Terre Haute and Ashlee Taylor Pugh, 20, of Dennison, Ill., which is in Clark County.

All three were pronounced dead at the scene by Susan Amos, Vigo County coroner.

CSX Railroad notified the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department about 2 a.m. that a train had struck a vehicle at the crossing at Rio Grande and Gallagher, south of Fontanet in Nevins Township.

The CSX crew told Sheriff Greg Ewing, who was at the scene, they could see a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed toward the crossing as the train was headed northbound at 56 mph. The crew hoped they might avoid the vehicle, but struck the truck on the passenger side, the sheriff said.

“They knew the truck was not going to stop,” Ewing said. The crew put the train in “emergency” mode and braced for impact, the sheriff said.

Rickard and Pugh were ejected and pinned under the pickup truck, according to a Vigo County Sheriff’s Department news release. No seat belts were in use at the time of the crash and, based on evidence found at the scene, it is believed that alcohol may have been a factor in the crash, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Autopsies were pending as of Wednesday evening.

All crossing warning signals and gates were functioning normally at the time of the crash, according to a news release. All warning lights on the train were also functioning. All pertinent data from the train’s “black box” has been downloaded for review, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s deputies, after arriving at the scene, located the pickup north of the crossing with extensive damage.

The Indiana State Police and the Nevins Township Fire Department assisted at the scene. The crossing was closed for several hours but reopened around 8 a.m., Ewing said.