Steve Fucile of Dallas had never ridden a TRE passenger train before Saturday.
In the month that he and his family have been in Dallas, the 42-year-old Fucile had been on the DART light-rail system in the city several times, he said.
But on Saturday, Fucile decided he would visit a friend in Fort Worth.
“I almost missed the TRE train Saturday,” Fucile said Monday in a telephone interview. “But I made it, and at some point they announced that on our next stop we would need to take the bus to get to Fort Worth because some track work was being done.”
Seconds later, the westbound TRE train traveling at 74 miles an hour collided with a dump truck that had driven through the crossing, killing the two people in the truck at 12700 Calloway Cemetery Road. Passengers told CBS 11 News that the train operator blew his horn and tried to stop but couldn’t do so in time.
Officials with the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office identified the victims as Charlene Alexander, 50, of Denton and Arnell Tolliver, 49, of Dallas.
“The guy next to me is thrown against the wall and I’m tossed onto a table,” Fucile said. “Then there’s shattered glass hitting us, rocks are flying in and there’s orange and black from a fire.”
Fucile was sitting in the first train car right behind the locomotive. He said he injured his right shoulder when he was tossed about.
“Fire and smoke started in,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘We’re going to burn.’”
The train began shaking back and forth. People were screaming and smoke was filling the cars, he said.
“Now I believe it’s going to derail,” Fucile said. “I kept thinking we’re going to burn or I’m jumping out of a window, but the train stopped shaking so I decided to stay put.”
The train came to a stop without derailing.
“I feel like I’m OK and the adrenalin took over,” Fucile said. “I start checking on people. I see this girl with a bloody face from glass hitting her face. Minutes later, I start to feel like I’ve been banged up.”
Emergency crews arrived on the scene and Fucile was the third person taken out of the passenger train car, he said. He ended up at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in H-E-B and was treated for several hours before being released Saturday evening.
Ten other passengers also went to hospitals along with the conductor. The condition of the patients was not available Monday, but train officials said the conductor was discharged on Sunday. The engineer of the two-person crew was treated at the scene. Thirty other passengers also were treated on site, according to a MedStar official.
DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said Monday that all track and right of way repairs and inspections were completed Saturday night.
TRE trains do not operate between Fort Worth and Dallas on Sundays.
Regular train schedules resumed Monday morning, and truck traffic was brisk at the crossing. About 11 a.m., a large truck was observed going around the crossing.
“There’s maybe been two wrecks in the 10 years that I’ve been here,” said Ben Blanco with 24/7 Road Service whose office is directly across from the crossing. “I’ve not had any major problems with it (crossing), but once in awhile the arm will go down and there’s no train.”
Jimmy Masters of Haltom City said he has driven trucks for 20 years and has had to drive over the crossing at 12700 Calloway Cemetery Road.
“It’s always worked for me,” Masters said. “Those passenger trains will fly through here, the freight trains not so much.”
But a couple of commenters on Facebook who say they’ve driven through the crossing at different times had a different perspective.
The neighborhood is mostly trucking companies and industrial businesses. Tolliver and Alexander were driving a dump truck loaded with rocks.
Relatives of Alexander declined to comment on Monday.
Fort Worth police, the lead investigating agency, said the investigation into the fatal crash remains open.
“Detectives are still working the case,” Fort Worth police spokesman Tracy Carter said Monday in an email. “Detectives will interview all witnesses and victims.”
Texas Department of Public Safety records indicate that Tolliver was a registered sex offender. He was convicted in 1992 of the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, sentenced to 35 years and later paroled.
As for Fucile, the Dallas resident is having second thoughts about riding on a train.
“Now that TRE is one safe train,” he said. “But I don’t know if I will get back on.”