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Victoria man shares train wreck experience

By JR Ortega
April 7, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Updated April 6, 2011 at 11:07 p.m.

A train struck a pick-up truck Tuesday at the track intersection of John Stockbauer Drive. The driver was transported to Citizens Medical Center and released later that night.

A train struck a pick-up truck Tuesday at the track intersection of John Stockbauer Drive. The driver was transported to Citizens Medical Center and released later that night.

Martin Peralta's body is stiff and sore, but he's accepted that - considering a train struck and dragged his vehicle 70 yards down a steel track.

The 45-year-old had been driving his 1996 Chevrolet S10 north on South John Stockbauer Drive on Tuesday afternoon when a Kansas City Southern train heading east along side U.S. Highway 59 struck the driver's side of his small pickup.

The crossing has no railroad gates but soon will because of funding the Texas Department of Transportation came up with late last year, said Robert Maxey, district railroad coordinator for the state agency. The gates will be up this summer.

Though Peralta is alive, the gates are coming too late, he said.

"Did it have to take an accident to happen?" he asked as he stood on his front porch Thursday.

Railroad crossings at Convent Street, Murray Street, Odem Street and Pleasant Green Drive will also be receiving gates through the 2011 Federal Signal Program, which receives funding through the Federal Highway Administration, Maxey said.

Funding is allocated based on several circumstances, such as traffic volume, train frequency and number of accidents, Maxey said.

Receiving funding and material for building the gates takes anywhere from a year to 15 months, and each crossing gate costs about $180,000, he said.

"There is more traffic on that road," Maxey said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get them in time."

Kansas City Southern Railroad has an agreement with Union Pacific to use the U.S. 59 rail line, said Raquel Espinoza, corporate relations and media director for Union Pacific Southern Region.

Kansas City Southern rebuilt the track and began using the line about three years ago.

Signs at railroad crossings only go so far, she said.

"It's important for the community to realize half of the crossing collisions happen at crossings with lights and gates," she said. "While they do help alert drivers of oncoming trains, it's very important drivers follow the laws and look both ways."

The particular crossing where Peralta was hit has a "look both ways" sign.

Peralta, who works at Exterran on Lone Tree Road, drives down the section of road almost every day.

A day after the wreck, Peralta drove his other truck down South John Stockbauer, retracing what could have been his final trek.

After visiting the wreck site, Peralta remembers not hearing the train. He remembers looking for the train but the next thing he saw was KCS train 708 staring down at him.

"It just happened so quick," he said. "I was out for a second or two."

Peralta is just glad to be alive and owes his life to his old truck, which was tough enough to withstand the hit, he said.

He called his wife Eloisa to tell her he had been in a train wreck and that he would let her know where he was being transported.

The situation seemed unbelievable, she said.

"That little truck saved him," she said. "We don't want this to happen to another person."

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