An Amtrak train destined for Washington, D.C., derailed in central Vermont on Monday after striking rocks that fell from a ledge onto the tracks. Seven people were injured, including one who was airlifted to a hospital.
The Vermonter train carrying 98 passengers and four crew members derailed at around 10:30 a.m. in Northfield, about 20 miles southwest of Montpelier.
At an afternoon news conference, officials said the train hit rocks that had fallen onto the tracks from a ledge above. One locomotive and one passenger car went over an embankment, and three other cars left the track but remained upright.
"This was a freak of nature," Gov. Peter Shumlin said.
One of the injured was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire and was being evaluated in the emergency room, spokesman Rick Adams said. Six others went to Central Vermont Medical Center with injuries including neck, back and shoulder pain and lightheadedness.
State officials said a freight train had passed over the same tracks Sunday night with no problems.
Bob Redmond, of Bay City, Michigan, was taking a foliage tour and sitting in the front row of the third car when the train derailed. He looked outside the window and saw the car that had been ahead of his was now alongside him.
"It was just going the other way, and we started tipping sideways and down we went," he said.
The Vermonter takes the route daily, beginning in northern Vermont. The 13-hour, 45-minute trip passes through cities including Burlington, Vt., Springfield, Mass., and New York, with D.C. as the final destination.
"We were fortunate when you see what happened," Redmond said. "It could've been a whole lot worse, that's for sure.
Tracy Zaplitny, also of Bay City, said she and other passengers broke a window to get out of the train.
"It's a huge wreck up there," she said.
At least several dozen passengers were loaded onto school buses to be taken to an armory at nearby Norwich University.
Passengers helped others after the crash. Redmond said since he was in the front row, he got off the train first, and he and others started helping people off the train.
Investigators for the Federal Railroad Administration were on the scene.
Vermont State Police and local fire and rescue agencies responded to the derailment, and numerous emergency vehicles were at the site.
Associated Press writer Joan Lowy contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.