Car hits train on Route 7; no serious injuries

THIS KIA SEDONA was considered a total loss after the driver apparently didn’t see the crossing arm down across Route 7 in Ferrisburgh Tuesday and struck a slow-moving Amtrak train. Minor injuries were reported. Photo courtesy of Vermont State Police 

FERRISBURGH — Vermont State Police cited a Ferrisburgh resident after her car struck a southbound Amtrak train at a Route 7 railroad crossing on Tuesday morning and then bounced into another car that had stopped because the crossing’s warning lights were blinking. 

Troopers said no one was seriously injured during the three-way accident, which closed Route 7 just north of Monkton Road in Ferrisburgh for about 45 minutes starting at 10:51 a.m. Officials cleared the car, whose front end was crumpled, investigated the scene and then released the southbound train, carrying 59 passengers as well as a crew of seven, to continue on its way. In the meantime motor vehicle traffic was detoured through Vergennes. 

Driver Nichole Rampone, 33, of Ferrisburgh was taken to Porter Hospital by the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad with what state police described in a press release as “suspected minor injuries.” Observers reported she walked to the ambulance under her own power. Police cited Rampone for failing to honor the activated crossing lights, and she could face a $220 fine. 

Police said Rampone was driving a 2019 Kia Sedona southbound on Route 7 and did not notice the flashing railroad signals or the 2021 VW Golf (the car already stopped at the crossing) with enough time to stop. In an attempt to avoid a collision with the VW, Rampone lurched right, and the front-driver’s side of her Kia struck the rear-passenger’s side of the Golf.

Rampone’s SUV then left the road and its front end struck the front-left corner of the train, which was traveling east at less than 30 mph. This caused the Kia to spin counterclockwise resulting in its rear-end striking the left side of the train.

While Rampone’s injuries were called “minor,” the driver of the VW, 46-year-old Alexa Buskey of Ferrisburgh, was unhurt; nor were any injuries reported on the train.

The Kia was totaled, the VW damage was not characterized, and damage to the train was minor.

A passenger on the train told the Independent that he didn’t even notice when the collision occurred.

Vergennes Fire Chief Dave DiBiase was on the scene commanding the dozen members of his department who responded along with its heavy rescue truck and one engine, and the five members of the Ferrisburgh Fire Department who helped at the incident. The Ferrisburgh firefighters helped take charge of the detour, according to DiBiase and Ferrisburgh Chief Bill Wager, who was not on the scene but was informed later.

DiBiase offered the same account of the incident as state police, and wanted to set the record clear that the fault lay on “distracted driving,” and neither the train crew nor the railroad were to be blamed.

“All the safety mechanisms at the railroad crossing were still working at the time of our arrival, and one of the cars was actually wedged under the arm,” he said. “So it was a distracted driver who tried to miss one collision and ended up striking the train.”

Fortunately, DiBiase said, it did not appear anyone was seriously injured. Both Rampone and Buskey were wearing seat belts.

“It sounds like all the injuries were minor, but they did transport one individual to the hospital for evaluation,” he said. “We were lucky nobody really got hurt.”

Wager agreed.

“They’re very lucky people,” he said. “You tangle with Amtrak, and it’s kind of dangerous.”

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