A 17-year-old is in custody and three men are being sought after a train struck a stolen tractor hooked to a pickup Thursday morning in Peach County.
Glavin Sikes, 17, of Fort Valley, was charged with criminal damage to property, a felony, as well as criminal trespass and reckless conduct, both misdemeanors, Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese said.
Authorities are attempting to verify the identities of two of the men and to identity a third, he said.
Sikes and at least three other men were riding near the tracks when the truck got stuck. One of the men returned with a large John Deere tractor to try to get the vehicle free, Deese said.
A Norfolk Southern train hit the tractor on the tracks at about 7:45 a.m., and the tow rope pulled the pickup into its path. The incident happened between Powersville and Byron.
“I’m just glad no one was hurt,” said one train official who responded to the accident.
Deputies picked up the teen on the scene, but the other three got away.
“From the reports I’ve read, they were running pretty good so they weren’t hurt by any means,” Deese said. “At this point, we’re considering it a tractor theft. ... It was a big cab four-wheel drive John Deere. It would have to be a pretty big farmer to own something like that.”
Investigators suspect the men may have been trying to steal scrap metal along the tracks when the pickup got stuck.
“We’re trying to determine whether they were just out joy riding or just trying to steal something,” said sheriff’s Capt. Kenny Cameron.
The Norfolk Southern train suffered damage to the locomotive, which had to be swapped out with another engine before the train could be moved.
The impact mangled the tractor and the disk harrow used for plowing it was pulling. Some of the bent disks littered the tracks.
The front window of the pickup was smashed, and the back of the truck was damaged near the tailgate.
It took hours for wrecker crews to figure out how to retrieve the wreckage that was in a remote area off Powersville Road.
No one was hurt in the crash, but the train engineer or the person on the tractor could have been hurt, Deese said.
The reason the criminal damage to property charge is a felony is because of the potential for harm and because the damage to the train was expected to be more than $500, Deese said.
Telegraph staff writer Becky Purser contributed to this report. To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.