A Dent man was miraculously unharmed after a collision with a Canadian Pacific freight train in Ottertail last week.
The full-size semi truck with a grain hopper was wrapped around the entire front end of the train-and pushed an estimated 300 yards through the city of Ottertail, according to Otter Tail County Deputy Mark Haberer.
Driver of the Kenworth truck was Benjamin Andrew Keil, 29, Dent. Bruised right leg and forearm were the only injuries sustained by Keil, who was taken to the Perham Memorial Hospital for an exam and released.
The collision occurred about 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8. A relatively quiet track, trains are infrequent, said Haberer, who reported that the driver of the truck did not see the train until it was too late. The truck was southbound on Lake Ave., from Elevator Drive in Ottertail. Conductor Rex Tim Crapeau, 56, Thief River Falls, was piloting the train southeast on the Canadian (formerly Soo Line) rails.
Eastbound traffic on Highway 108 was re-routed to county roads south and north of Ottertail for up to four hours, according to Fay Pary, who lives across a field from where the train came to rest near a residential neighborhood.
The train struck the truck a few blocks north of Betty's Pantry café, was pushed across Highway 108, and came to a stop with freight cars blocking 108--the main eastbound road out of Ottertail.
The name of the driver of the truck was not available Sunday.
"Visibly shaken" but very thankful" is how Haberer described the driver of the truck after surviving the crash--which devastated the truck.
"A couple things saved him. The train was only going about 45 miles per hour on that particular track," said Haberer. Also, he added, the fact that the collision point was on the passenger side, and the size of the truck, saved him."
"It was a lot different than getting hit on the passenger side of a smaller truck or vehicle," said Haberer. "He had the cushion of the entire passenger said of the truck before it impacted the driver's side."
Ottertail rescue team members responded and performed a medical assessment of the driver.
Miraculously, he was virtually unscathed.
"He really thought it was the end for him," said Deputy Haberer, who has served nine years with the OTC Sheriff's Department. "I've responded to train accidents, but never one where the driver walked away like that," he added.
Also responding at the scene were Minnesota State Patrol officers and Canadian Pacific Railroad officials.
According to Fay Pary, they watched as heavy equipment was used to pry and pull the wreckage from the front of the train.
Zach Pary, 12, saw the wreckage on the front of the train and initially thought it was a locomotive with an immense plow attached to the front.
After the debris was removed, the train engine was evidently inspected and about four hours from the time of collision, the train departed under its own power, said Fay Pary.