Amtrak Derails, 1 Dies, 90 Injured

Sunday, March 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NODAWAY, Iowa (AP) — An Amtrak train derailed about 70 miles southwest of Des Moines on Sunday, killing one passenger and injuring at least 90 others.

The California Zephyr's two locomotives and 15 cars were carrying 195 passengers and 15 crew members, Amtrak spokeswoman Debra Hare said.

Rescue efforts were hampered by a lack of road access, Corning Police Chief Larry Drew said. Drew said several other passengers also may have died, but the coroner had confirmed only one death early Sunday.

Victims, three in serious condition, were transported to six area hospitals. One passenger was flown by helicopter to Omaha, Neb., and two others were flown to Des Moines, said Adams County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Brown.

Passenger Joseph Conn of Hobart, Ind., said one of the front train cars overturned and another was dangling from a 20-foot-high embankment.

``One of the coach cars went off to the left and it's sitting basically on its roof. Its wheels are sticking up into the air. They carried a number of people out of that one,'' said Conn, who was sitting near the back of the train.

``Between our car and the smoking car there was maybe more than 100 feet of shredded ties, shredded rails, torn up ballast on the roadway, just a torn-up mess,'' said Conn.

The train was headed westbound from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif., when the derailment occurred at about 12:50 a.m. EST.

``There were cars off the track and down in the ditch along the railway,'' Brown said.

There was no indication of what may have caused the crash. Amtrak's customer response team and National Transportation and Safety Board investigators were en route to the site, Hare said.

Bryan Kannas, emergency management coordinator for the Adams County Sheriff's department, said the derailment happened on a straightaway located between the communities of Brooks and Nodaway. That section of track is owned and maintained by Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad.

Passengers were taken to a community center in Nodaway where they were served breakfast.

``They were kind of, like you'd think, shook up over it,'' Nodaway Mayor Robert Pafford said. ``After they settled down a little bit, they realized they had sores here and there and they were just bumps and bruises.''

Uninjured passengers were then taken by bus to Omaha. Amtrak was arranging for shelter and alternate transportation.

Amtrak has set up a toll-free number for relatives at 1-800-523-9101.