Monday’s collision between a Downeaster train and a tractor-trailer was the first “major accident” in the nearly 10-year history of Amtrak’s Portland-to-Boston passenger service, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

Quinn said there have been other incidents, including trains hitting abandoned cars and killing people who committed suicide on the tracks, but this was the first entirely accidental fatality.

There is no complete record of incidents on the Downeaster rail line, but newspaper accounts from the past 10 years document several crashes and near-crashes.

A week after Downeaster service began in December 2001, an oil truck was nearly hit at a crossing at York Hill in Saco.

The truck stopped at the tracks. Then, as it was crossing them, the warning lights came on and gates started coming down. The arm of a gate hit the back of the truck, fell onto the tracks and was hit by the train seconds later.

A month later, also in Saco, a Downeaster train’s crew had to pull the emergency brakes to avoid hitting snowmobilers who were riding on the tracks. Railroad police said at the time that the Downeaster had also had recent near-collisions with sleds in Biddeford, Wells, North Berwick and Dover, N.H.

In October 2003 in Newfields, N.H., a 35-year-old man stood on the tracks and failed to respond to an emergency horn and signals. He was struck and killed.

In April 2007, an Arundel man dashed away from an oncoming Downeaster train moments before it smashed his all-terrain vehicle, which had stalled on the tracks in Biddeford.

The most recent reported incident was in January 2009, when a 19-year-old pedestrian suffered leg injuries when he was hit by a train on Main Street in Biddeford.

Quinn said the rail authority, which operates the Downeaster service, doesn’t keep track of incidents on the line. Amtrak doesn’t, either.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Rail Administration has a database of statistics, divided into two types of accidents, that’s searchable by railroad and by state.

“Train accidents/incidents” include train-on-train collisions, derailments and mechanical failures. An online search of such accidents involving Amtrak trains in Maine shows that in the past 10 years, there have been five, which caused four non-fatal injuries. The accidents are listed by year, but there are no additional details, such as date or location.

“Highway-rail crossing accidents,” which is what occurred Monday, are incidents at railroad crossings in which people are injured or killed.

A search of those accidents involving Amtrak trains in Maine shows that the only ones in the past decade occurred in 2009: the pedestrian accident on Main Street in Biddeford, an accident that injured two people in a car in Old Orchard Beach, and an accident that injured a pedestrian in Old Orchard Beach.

Warren Flatau, a spokesman for the Federal Rail Administration, said the agency is investigating Monday’s crash, as are officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration.


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