Six killed in US train crash

Ken Thomas,Associated Press
Friday 19 April 2002 00:00 BST
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Louise Thomas

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Six passengers died when a train carrying 440 tourists hurtled off the tracks in rural Florida. Dozens were injured.

The Amtrak train was carrying the passengers and their cars, as well as 28 crew, from Sanford, Florida, to Lorton, Virginia, a suburb of Washington. Fourteen of the 16 passenger cars derailed yesterday in a rural area 44 miles from Stanford, knocking down pine trees.

"We just started hurtling and left the track and the next thing we knew, we were bouncing off the walls," said Bernie Morgan, traveling from Naples, Florida, to Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

The cause of the derailment was not immediately known, but investigators have not found any cars or vehicles on the track, said Capt. Keith Riddick of the Putnam County sheriff's department. The tracks were inspected eight hours earlier and were in good condition, said Jane Covington, a spokeswoman for CSX Corp., which owns, operates and maintains the tracks.

The train consisted of two engines, 16 passenger cars and 202 automobiles stacked in 23 specially designed cars.

Firefighters climbed ladders to reach windows on overturned carriages and helped people to escape.

At least six people were killed, said Bill Leeper, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol. Three passengers were flown by helicopter to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville. One person was in critical condition. Five men and four women were in serious condition at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

"Suddenly you could feel the brakes scraping," said David Sheldon, 71, who was traveling from Boca Raton, Florida. He said it took about 30 seconds for the train to come to stop.

"It seemed like forever," he said.

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