Prince George's County police and the FBI issued arrest warrants yesterday charging a former Laurel man with causing the derailment Sunday of a freight train that slammed into a bulldozer on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks in Laurel.
The warrants were issued for John Michael Holly, 23, whose last known address was in Laurel four years ago. Prince George's police spokesman Bruce Gentile said police identified Holly based on accounts given by several witnesses who saw a man driving the bulldozer near the tracks. Gentile said the search for Holly is centered in the Laurel area.
Holly is charged by Prince George's police with assault with intent to murder and by the FBI with the federal offense of derailing a train. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
A railroad spokeswoman said the 3 a.m. collision Sunday caused more than $1 million in damage to the train. None of the four crew members on the train were injured.
Police said they believe the bulldozer was stolen from a construction site and taken to the nearby tracks, where it was used to dig up some railroad ties beneath the Cherry Lane overpass between Rtes. 1 and 197. The bulldozer was then abandoned with the shovel dangling over the tracks.
The 51-car Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train carrying automobiles from Wilmington, Del., to East St. Louis, Ill., slammed into the bulldozer at 50 miles per hour. Four diesel engines and 15 railroad cars were derailed as the train came to a screeching halt about 25 feet from the Briarwood Apartments on Cherry Lane. Each of the rail cars weighs between 60 to 80 tons.
An electrical fire erupted in the cab of one of the diesels, but was extinguished within 15 minutes, railroad spokeswoman Marian Smith said.
Residents of the apartment complex were taken to a nearby community center for two hours as a precautionary measure because officials feared the fire could spread or the accident could cause an explosion, she said.
The eastbound tracks were cleared by 12:30 p.m. Monday, Smith said, adding that officials hoped to have the westbound tracks cleared by late last night.