The collision happened shortly before 5 p.m. on Vista Avenue near Highway 99. The nearly mile-long Union Pacific train was carrying hundreds of military vehicles, mostly Stryker armored personnel carriers. Labels on the vehicles indicated they were being shipped from Ft. Lewis, Washington, to Fort Irwin, California, in the Mojave Desert.
A motorist named Tee Sae gave Action News the video of the crash. He was waiting at the rail crossing at Vista Avenue and Highway 99, saw the stranded truck and started taking video. It shows the truck driver walking down the tracks, frantically waving his arms to stop the train, but, as the video shows, the train kept on coming. The instant the train hit, the trailer of the semi exploded, sending its cargo, cardboard boxes full of plastic bags of trail mix flying.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE.
On the other side of the tracks, on Highway 99, Robert Thissen was riding with his parents, using his cellphone to take video of the unusual train load of military equipment, when he saw what was about to happen, and on the video you hear him scream, "Stop, Dad, stop...oh my God, we are going to die!"
A short time later, Action News caught up with Thissen in Chowchilla. He explained what was going through his head when he saw the impact.
"Is the truck going to fly into traffic in front of us? Is the train going to derail? Is there going to be an explosion?" he said. "The truck was right in front of us, maybe another five or ten seconds we would have been in this truck lane, we would have been destroyed, we would have been killed in this."
The tractor of the semi rolled onto Highway 99. Ken McIntire said he was lucky to avoid hitting it in his truck.
"That was a pretty close call for me too, so I'm very thankful," he said.
Pieces of the demolished trailer were stuck to the front of the train, and boxes full of bagged trail mix were everywhere. The train was not damaged, and was able to move down the track within a couple of hours after the incident. Despite the incredible impact, nobody was hurt.