San Bernardino, CA Train Derailment Kills Several, May 1989

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San Bernardino, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities searching through tons of debris found a 24-year-old man alive more than 14 hours after a runaway freight train jumped its tracks at 90 mph and slammed into a row of houses, killing three.

Chris Shaw was half asleep in his home Friday when the out-of-control train catapulted off a curve. Locomotives and freight cars loaded with unprocessed potash were sent crashing into 11 houses, including his.

He was found shortly before 9 p.m. and spoke to rescuers who fed him oxygen through a tube and encouraged him throughout the 1 1/2-hour rescue operation.

"I would never have believed that this individual could have survived where he was," said a rescue coordinator, whose name was not immediately available. "He had major train parts against his body."

Shaw apparently was able to survive after metal debris formed a cave, creating an air pocket with enough oxygen to sustain him, said Gene Brooks, a rescue supervisor.
"I'm glad my son is out of the house," said his mother, Maryann Shaw. "I was so confused. I told him that his mama was outside and I was out here for him."

He suffered a broken right leg, said Joy Flint, a nursing supervisor at San Bernardino County Hospital. Shaw was in serious condition early today.

"Christopher is awake and alert and in good spirits," Mrs. Flint added.

The Southern Pacific freight apparently lost its brakes near the top of the 4,190-foot Cajon Pass and careened down the flank of the San Bernardino Mountains, said Southern Pacific spokesman Jim Loveland.

During their desperate plunge, the five-man crew radioed that they were out of control. Then the train, two-thirds of a mile long, plowed into a modest neighborhood of single-story homes about 7:40 a.m. in San Bernardino, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.