GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Channel 9 learned a Gastonia pastor was killed when the garbage truck he was driving collided with a train in Gaston County.
"When it 'boomed' you could just feel the vibrations," witness Alyssa Payne said.
Payne walked out of her house to see and called 911 about 1:15 p.m. Monday to report the collision off Highway 7 near the Ranlo and Lowell town line.
The impact derailed the train and ripped off the front cab of the truck, causing it to burst into flames.
"We heard the big old 'boom' and then walked down there and saw it blow up," nearby resident Brandi Moses said.
"The guys in the train tried to get him out I believe but he was pinned in," Payne said.
Thomas Collins Jr., who was driving the garbage truck, died in the collision.
A waste management spokesperson told Channel 9 Collins went by "TC" and was also the pastor of New Canaan Baptist Church in Gastonia. He was a father of four and grandfather of six.
The collision happened near the waste management truck yard.
Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster asked Ranlo police exactly how the collision happened.
"We're not releasing any of that right now … not until our investigation is over," Sgt. Brian Holland said.
There is no railroad crossing signal or stop-arm where the fatal accident happened. Channel 9 asked Holland if he wants those safety precautions at that intersection with train tracks.
"I wish there was," he said.
The investigation is ongoing and police have not released why Collins' truck was on the tracks.
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