PLANT CITY — A semitrailer truck hauling timber from the new Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve was struck by a CSX freight train on Wednesday.
The truck driver, Roberto Febles of Ocala, was leaving the preserve with a heavy load of pine logs just before 10 a.m. and was about to turn onto State Road 39, according to Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies. Febles didn’t see the southbound train, which struck the truck and dragged it for about 1,000 feet as the trailer wrapped around the train’s front end.
Rescuers got Febles out of the heavily damaged truck, and he was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital. The train conductor, Steven Couture of Lakeland, and two other CSX workers on board were not injured, authorities said.
Workers at the Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve have been clearing away old, diseased pines for about a month as part of a flatwoods restoration project by the county’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, said Mark Brown, manager of the program’s northeast preserves. Formerly the Cone Ranch, the large preserve opened to the public earlier this year.
Febles was a relatively new driver contracted to help with the restoration work, Brown said.
Febles was driving on a private dirt road to the northwest of the preserve near Moriczville Lane. The railroad crossing there is marked with signs, but there is no electronic signal.
Brown went out to the site shortly after the crash, but neither he nor the property owner knew why Febles’ truck was on the tracks as the train was passing, he said. He hadn’t spoken to Febles Wednesday afternoon.
“Fortunately, he’s OK,” Brown said. “That’s the main thing.”
The train was hauling two locomotives and 10 empty rail cars, a CSX spokeswoman said.