Marshall, TX Amtrak Derailment, Nov 1983
BROKEN RAIL MAY HAVE CAUSED TRAIN WRECK.
4 KILLED, SCORES INJURED IN EAST TEXAS DERAILMENT.
Marshall, Texas (AP) -- Investigators are hoping a shattered section of rail will reveal how five railroad cars on the Amtrak Eagle derailed deep in the East Texas woods, killing four women and injuring scores of other people.
National Transportation Safety Board workers said Sunday that a preliminary investigation of Saturday's accident -- the second-worst in Amtrak's 12-year history -- showed that the passenger cars derailed when they hit a separation in the track.
However, NTSB member Donald Engen said the broken section of rail will be sent to a Union Pacific laboratory in Omaha, Neb., for further tests and a final report may not be ready for four months.
NTSB spokesman Bob Buckhorn said the rail was broken in several places, causing the separation.
"The track breaks and the broken piece of rail comes up and is hit by the oncoming truck, which is the technical word for the set of four wheels," Buckhorn said. "You can say that the train derailed because of the break, but there's probably more to it. A train can pass over a break in the rail without derailing."
Engen said the shattered rail was the same section Missouri Pacific Railroad crews worked on within two hours of the accident. After the repair crews finished, two freight trains had passed over the rails before the two-engine, nine-car Eagle, an Amtrak spokesman said.
On Sunday, torn pillows were strewn along the tracks and disposable coffe cups littered the ground near the accident site, but the only other sign of the accident was a Missouri Pacific railroad crew sitting by a campfire after replacing the 700 feet of mangled track.
Buses carried 101 of the 145 passengers on board to Dallas and San Antonio following the accident. Workers unloaded baggage into a truck Sunday morning and the train was righted, put on repaired track and moved to a Marshall railyard where federal investigators sealed it off and began their examination.
"There were people crawling all over the top of the cars; electrical lines were all over the place; people were crying, people were in shock," said volunteer firefighter Randy Minatrea.
Officials said 24 people were admitted to three hospitals, and scores of others were treated for minor injuries and released.
The accident was Amtrak's worst since June 10, 1971, when 11 people were killed at Salem, Ill., said Cliff Black, a spokesman for the rail network in Washington. Amtrak was formed May 1, 1971.
A data recorded aboard the train, which was headed for San Antonio, Texas, from Chicago, showed it was traveling at 73 mph when it derailed, said Missouri Pacific Vice President Richard Davidson. The speed limit for passenger trains on that stretch of track is 75 mph.
William Grimmer, the general superintendent for Amtrak's Midwest division, said no defects had been found on the Eagle, which carried a crew of 17.
Killed in the wreck were:
CAROL McDONALD, 74, of Dallas.
DOROTHY BLASK, 77, of Milwaukee.
ALMA HELENA ZAHN, 69, of La Crosse, Wis.
SYBIL FISHER, 59, of Mineola, Texas
Winchester Star Virginia 1983-11-14