Saraland, AL Train Wreck, Sept 1993

Scene of Disaster One of the Coaches ALABAMA 1993.jpg

FEAR 70 PERISH IN ALA. BAYOU

Train derails in worst Amtrak accident ever

SARALAND, Ala. (AP) - An Amtrak train jumped the tracks and plunged into a foggy bayou before daybreak today, trapping passengers in a submerged car and killing at least 26 people, authorities said. It was the deadliest crash in the history of Amtrak, created in 1970 to run the nation's long-distance passenger trains. Sixteen people were killed Jan. 4, 1987, in an Amtrak crash in Chase, Md.

STEVE HUFFMAN, public information officer for the Mobile fire department, put the number of confirmed dead at 26, and authorities said they feared it could go higher. One of the train's four passenger cars was completely submerged; the train had more than 200 people aboard.

"We do have fatalities, and it looks like it will be a large number," said HUFFMAN.

Earlier, an Amtrak spokesman said 70 people were originally unaccounted for.

"I woke up and the train was like a roller coaster slowing down very quickly," SIMON GRANT, a passenger in one of the rear cars, told CNN. An Amtrak crew member broke a window, allowing people to escape, he said.

All three engines and four of the eight cars on Amtrak's Sunset Limited derailed just after 3 a. m. in a remote, swampy area on the northern outskirts of Mobile, Amtrak spokesman CLIFFORD BLACK said in Washington. Two of the derailed cars were passenger cars, he said.

The Coast Guard used helicopters and boats to pull scores of people from the murky water, and sent divers in to look for others.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known.

The train was en route from Los Angeles to Miami, with 189 passengers and 17 crew members believed aboard, Amtrak said.

Water at the site is reported to be about 25 feet deep, the railroad said. A freight train passed the scene just prior to the accident and reported no problems.

Coast Guard officials at the scene reported that some bodies were being recovered. Police set up a temporary morgue at a lumber company and dozens of ambulances were sent to transport the injured.

Volunteers in boats left from area marinas to help bring the passengers to shore. Another Amtrak train was sent in to transport survivors to a Mobile hotel.

One car was completely submerged and another was partially underwater, said RICHARD HUTCHINSON, a Coast Guard group operations controller in Mobile.

“It's indicated that 60 passengers are unaccounted for and that 10 crew members and unaccounted for, but that the balance of passengers and crew are safe,” BLACK said earlier. He had spoken before any deaths were confirmed.

The accident occurred where a long railroad bridge crosses over Bayou Cannot, near the Mobile River, which feeds the bayou.

The Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1993-09-22

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