MICHIGAN CITY | A South Shore commuter train was just minutes from a train bridge when the bridge sustained heavy damage when it was struck by a garbage truck Thursday.
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District spokesman John Parsons said Friday a westbound train carrying 81 passengers was between New Carlisle and South Bend when word was received about the collision, which moved the bridge deck along with the tracks five to six feet.
"It avoided a potential derailment. It certainly did," said Parsons. Work continued Friday on repairing the Hudson Lake bridge and passengers kept getting bused from the train stations in Michigan City and South Bend to continue with their commute around the bridge work.
Originally, the railroad said it would take seven to 10 days to reopen the bridge. Parsons said the schedule could be moved up but that won't be known for sure until possibly Sunday.
He expects the busing of passengers to continue until at least early next week.
According to LaPorte County Police, Donald Diehl, 47, had previously driven underneath the train bridge. This time, though, Diehl was in a truck he had never passed underneath the bridge with and slammed into the underside.
Specifically, police said the top of the truck hit the steel beam supports of the bridge wedging the truck between the underside of the bridge and pavement. Damage was so severe, the truck actually helped to support the bridge at North Point Road and Lake Park Avenue.
According to police, the truck was taller the the 11' 8" bridge clearance.
Parsons said Diehl, after the collision, heard a train whistle, then notified the proper authorities who alerted the railroad, which ordered the engineer to stop the train.
LaPorte County Police Chief Deputy Jim Sosinski said deputy James Arnold also played a role in preventing a derailment by climbing a steep embankment leading to the bridge deck and after surveying the damage alerting a 911 dispatcher.
Diehl of St. Joseph, Mich. sustained what was believed to be a minor injury to his face. He was working for Lakeshore Recycle and Disposal out of New Buffalo, Mich.
Parsons said the bridge was already on a schedule to be replaced in 2014.