September 9, 2002 at 6:00 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 6:40 AM
DeGRAFF, Ohio (AP) - Investigators said Monday they believe the driver of a pickup truck did not see a train that hit the vehicle, killing him and three passengers and critically injuring another this weekend.
The four were trapped in the wreckage after a freight train hit their pickup truck Sunday at a crossing near this western Ohio village and burst into flames. The train pushed the pickup for about a quarter-mile down the tracks. One of two boys riding in the truck's bed was thrown clear and injured.
Logan County Sheriff Mike Henry said Monday a preliminary investigation determined that those killed were driver Don Dillon, 56, of West Liberty, Marci Hicks, 31, and her children Natoris Hicks, 11, and Datoris Hicks, 10. The Hicks lived near the Logan County village of Zanesfield.
Hicks' 12-year-old son, Artoris Hicks, was injured and taken to Children's Hospital in Columbus where he was listed Monday in critical condition.
Investigators identified the victims through the truck's license plate number and interviews with family members. Authorities are still awaiting positive identifications from the coroner's office.
The CSX train hit the pickup broadside about 12:40 p.m. Sunday at a rural railroad that has railroad-crossing signs but no warning lights or gates, Henry said. He said the eastbound train was traveling 59 mph in a 60-mph zone and was blowing its whistle.
The 42-car train was traveling from St. Louis to Boston, CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan said.
"We have talked with the engineer, and he did see the vehicle coming," Henry said. "The driver did not look at him as he approached the crossing."
Deputy Jeff Anspach said the train operator, identified as W.C. Walton, reported that the two boys in the truck bed were trying to get the truck driver's attention seconds before the collision.
Robert Corwin, who lives near the railroad crossing, was driving an all-terrain vehicle in a nearby field.
"I heard a big thump and screech and then saw black smoke," Corwin, 34, said.
He said he hurried to the scene, saw a boy lying about 40 feet from the tracks and then called the sheriff's department on his cell phone.
The roadway crosses the tracks at a severe angle that makes it difficult for motorists to see eastbound trains, said Lura Grandstaff, 80, who lives nearby. Trees partially obscure motorists' view, she said.
"We can hear the trains, but we can't see them. With seat belts on, we can't turn to see them," she said.
DeGraff is 40 miles northeast of Dayton.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)