Friday Jun 24 2011
Ill. to Calif. Amtrak collides with semi, 2 killed
By: MARTIN GRIFFITH,Associated Press
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A semitrailer plowed into an Amtrak passenger train Friday in rural Nevada, killing the truck driver and at least one person on the train and injuring about 20 others who escaped the fiery crash, authorities said. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari in Oakland, Calif., said most of the injuries were not life threatening. He said 204 passengers and 14 crew members were aboard the California Zephyr en route from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif., about 300 miles west of the crash site. The big rig ran into the train around 11:25 a.m. Friday at a crossing on U.S. 95 about 70 miles east of Reno, said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Lopez. About 20 people aboard the train were taken to hospitals in Reno and Fallon, but he didn't know the extent of their injuries. Lopez said the crossing gates were working. He said he wasn't sure if the railroad lights were operating but he thinks they were. Amtrak passenger Jim Bickley told Sacramento, Calif., television station KXTV that the tractor-trailer hit the fourth car on the train. Two of the cars caught fire, Lopez said. Reno Fire Battalion Chief Tim Spencer said the train fire was under control before 2 p.m. He said one of his fire engines remained at the crash but two other water tenders had left the scene and no other emergency crews had been requested. Spencer said he continued to receive conflicting reports about the number of injured. "That is the big question mark," he told The Associated Press. "The fire is under control and it sounds like they don't need any more help. I couldn't see them returning any equipment if there were a significant number of serious injuries." Amtrak said anyone with questions about the passengers could call 800-523-9101. "We are saddened by any injury and appreciate the emergency response by local and state agencies," Amtrak said in a statement. The National Transportation Safety Board said its investigators were on the way to the scene. The accident shut down a section of U.S. 95 between Interstate 80 and Fallon. The tracks cross the highway about three miles south of I-80 in the heart of the Forty-Mile Desert, which was considered one of the deadliest sections of the entire overland journey by California-bound, covered-wagon pioneers in the 19th century. ___ Associated Press correspondent Scott Sonner contributed to this report from Reno.