An Aberdeen man is facing a felony charge and several misdemeanor charges after his alleged reckless-driving spree late Monday night caused the derailment of six empty train cars east of Montesano.
Joel Micheal Krebs, 18, was booked into Grays Harbor County Jail for malicious injury to railroad property and malicious mischief, according to the jail’s daily booking register. Krebs’ arrest and charges came after he stopped his pickup truck on the tracks in the way of an oncoming train, once near the intersection of Monte Brady and Monte Elma roads and again near the intersection of Monte Elma Road and Beacon Avenue, according the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office.
The first call about a recklessly driven red Toyota pickup came in just after 9 p.m., with the caller reporting the driver of the truck was knocking over garbage cans along Fairbairn Road, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The caller said the truck had a loud exhaust and roll bar, and that the caller had tried to follow the vehicle to get a license plate number, but was unsuccessful.
Another caller reported hearing a loud, crashing sound from the railroad near the intersection of Monte Elma Road and Beacon Avenue, telling dispatchers a train might have derailed. Montesano Police Department officers were the first on scene, and learned from the train’s conductor that the red Toyota pickup had parked on the tracks at both locations but moved off before the train passed. The conductor initiated an emergency stop the second time he saw the truck, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
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The cars, the statement says, remained upright and were apparently empty.
Another call came in at about 9:45 p.m. reporting a truck had destroyed several mailboxes along Barrett Road North in Montesano, scattering mail across the roadway. A final call came in just before 10 reporting an assault in Montesano, with the suspect’s vehicle described as a red Toyota pickup.
Sheriff’s deputies and Montesano officers tracked the vehicle to a home in Montesano, and determined Krebs was the driver. In addition to the charges of railroad property damage and malicious mischief, Krebs faces “numerous other misdemeanor charges,” including reckless driving, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
Krebs’ 19-year-old passenger, a Montesano man, was detained and released Monday night as investigators worked to determine the man’s involvement, but will also be booked for malicious injury to railroad property.
Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, the company that owns railroad throughout Grays Harbor and is a subsidiary of New York-based Genessee & Wyoming Inc., was able to open roadways along the tracks where the incident happened, but derailed cars blocked the entrance to the Grays Harbor Vet Clinic of Montesano, the sheriff’s statement said.
Damage “could be tens of thousands of dollars,” the Sheriff’s Office estimated.
No injuries or damage to railroad property came of the incident, a railroad statement said.
The 72-car train, which had been used to transport automobiles, had been traveling at 20 mph when it initiated its stop. “Freight trains can take a mile or more to stop, which is why motorists should always obey warning signs and exercise caution at railroad crossings,” the company’s statement said.
Monday’s derailment was the first since a series of three between Montesano and Aberdeen in May 2014.