Sims Crane Assists Emergency Responders on Florida Train Derailment

Nov. 8, 2013

Fast action by personnel with Sims Crane & Equipment Co. helped emergency responders quickly locate the body of a railroad worker crushed in a train derailment in Sanford, Fla., Oct. 24.

Sims Crane’s Orlando, Fla.-based crane application specialist Chris Arnold said that minutes after he heard about the derailment on a radio newscast he was in touch with his Railworks Corp. client contact at the Sun Rail accident site, and offered to send a crane to lift the derailed cars back on track.

At the time he heard of the accident, Arnold did not know that a railroad employee had been crushed beneath one of the cars, which was carrying gravel, at the Sun Rail expansion construction site.

“We work derailments regularly, but this was the first fatality for me,” Arnold said.

When given the go-ahead by his Railworks contacts to send a crane to the site, Arnold contacted two nearby Sims crane operators — one with a 175-ton rig in Orlando and a 110-ton rig returning from a job in South Daytona, Fla. Both cranes headed to the site and within 90 minutes from when Arnold first heard about the accident, the 110-ton rig arrived with certified crane operator Bill Leonard at the controls.

“Within 30 minutes of arriving, he was set up and fully rigged for the lift,” Arnold said. “As a safety concern, we had Florida Power & Light cut the power to the overhead lines before making the lift.”

Leonard gently hoisted the end of the rail car — a lift of about 36,000 pounds — up and away from the spill site, and a team from the Seminole County Coroner’s Office removed the body. The lift lasted 30 minutes until emergency responders could complete their investigation. In the meantime, the 175-ton rig arrived to serve as backup if needed.

“It was a tragic event and our hearts go out to the family of the deceased railroad employee,” said Dean Sims II, vice president of marketing for Sims Crane & Equipment Co. “We are gratified we were able to play even a small role in this emergency response situation as a service to our community.”

Tampa, Fla.-based Sims Crane & Equipment is No. 45 on the RER 100.