A ball of smoke and fire was visible for miles around Clear Lake Thursday afternoon and traffic was stopped on Highway 18 from Interstate 35 into town after a train hit a tanker truck that had just filled up with diesel. Police chief Dan Jackson says witnesses tell investigators the train’s whistle was blowing and though there are no crossing arms, the lights at the railroad crossing were signaling the train’s approach, but the driver crossed the track anyway and the train hit the tanker. The chief says the crossing on Clear Lake’s north side is closed for now as he says they need to pull the engines out and evaluate the track. Jackson says the driver had just taken on a full load at the Williams Brothers pipeline company in Clear Lake. He filled up with diesel fuel and crossed the railroad at the north 20th street crossing and was hit by the westbound train. He says the tanker full of diesel erupted into flames shortly after the impact and he’s amazed that the truck’s driver as well as the train’s engineer and conductor got out without any injuries. For a disaster that stopped traffic and sent a cloud of smoke into the sky, chief Jackson says it caused remarkably little trouble.He says the wind took smoke in the right direction and they didn’t have to evacuate any neighborhoods since it happened by the town’s cemetery.The Mason City HAZMAT team and D-N-R were called in to take care of spilled diesel, though Chief Jackson says about three-quarters of the tanker full burned in the fire that followed the crash.
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