SUMMER BALLENTINE Associated Press
MENDON, Mo. (AP) — A passenger train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago struck a dump truck and derailed Monday in a remote, rural area of Missouri, killing three people and injuring dozens more, officials said.
Two of the people who died were on the Amtrak train and one was in the truck, Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Justin Dunn said. It was not immediately clear exactly how many people were hurt, the patrol said, but hospitals reported receiving more than 40 patients from the crash and were expecting more.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief was carrying about 243 passengers and 12 crew members when the collision happened near Mendon at a rural intersection on a gravel road with no lights or electronic controls, officials said. Seven cars derailed, the Highway Patrol said.
It’s too early to speculate on why the truck was on the tracks, said National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy. A team of NTSB investigators will arrive Tuesday, she said. Trains won’t run be able to run on the track for “a matter of days” while they gather evidence, she added.
At one point, helicopter video of the site from KMBC-TV in Kansas City showed rail cars on their side as emergency responders used ladders to climb into one of them. Six medical helicopters parked nearby were waiting to transport patients.
Close to 20 local and state law enforcement agencies, ambulance services, fire department and medical helicopter services responded, Dunn said. The first emergency responders arrived within 20 minutes of receiving a 911 call, he said.
Passenger Robert Nightingale, owner of an art gallery in Taos, New Mexico, said he was dozing off in his sleeper room when the crash happened.
“Everything started to go in slow motion,” he told CNN, describing how the train rocked before tumbling onto its side.
Nightingale was able to climb out of the side of the rail car.
“We all just sat there shocked,” he said.
Other passengers on the train included 16 youths and eight adults from two Boy Scout troops who were traveling home to Appleton, Wisconsin, after a backcountry excursion at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. No one in the group was seriously injured, said Scott Armstrong, director of national media relations for the Boy Scouts of America. The Scouts administered first aid to several injured passengers, including the driver of the dump truck, Armstrong said.
High school students from Pleasant Ridge High School in Easton, Kansas, who were headed to a Future Business Leaders of America conference in Chicago, were also aboard, Superintendent Tim Beying told The Star.
It was the second Amtrak collision in as many days. Three people were killed Sunday afternoon when an Amtrak commuter train smashed into a car ín Northern California, authorities said.
The Southwest Chief takes about two days to travel from Los Angeles to Chicago, picking up passengers at stops in between. Mendon, with a population of about 160, is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of Kansas City.
Associated Press reporters Margaret Stafford in Liberty, Mo., Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, S.D., Grant Schulte in Omaha, Neb., and Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that the train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago.