30 injured when L.A. to Chicago Amtrak train derails in Kansas

When the Chicago-bound train derailed, 30 people were injured, two critically, Amtrak officials said.

Daniel Szczerba via AP
Emergency personnel work on a train that derailed near Dodge City, Kan., Monday, March 14, 2016. An Amtrak statement says the train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago early Monday when it derailed just after midnight in southwestern Kansas.

Seven cars on a Chicago-bound Amtrak passenger train derailed in southwestern Kansas early on Monday, injuring 30 people, two critically, officials said.

The coaches from Amtrak's Southwest Chief Train 4 traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed about 20 miles (32 km) west of Dodge City shortly after midnight, Amtrak said in a statement. About 128 passengers and 14 crew were aboard.

Twenty-one people were taken to Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City and nine were transported to St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City, Gray County spokeswoman Ashley Rogers said in an emailed statement. Two of those hospitalized were in critical condition.

Other passengers were taken to a recreation center in nearby Cimarron before being provided alternate transportation to their destinations.

Seven cars derailed, and five of them were on their sides, she said. Amtrak said the train had two locomotives and nine cars.

The accident occurred on track owned by BNSF Railway Co , according to Amtrak. The rail service said it was working with BNSF to determine the accident's cause.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on their way to the crash site, and Federal Railroad Administration investigators were already on scene, spokesmen said.

The derailment forced the closure of U.S. Highway 50, an east-west route.

Passenger Daniel Szczerba posted pictures on Twitter showing cars lying on their sides and another leaning over. Szczerba, who wrote on Twitter that he was unhurt, also posted a short video showing the emergency response, with what appeared to be passengers or local residents milling around near the derailed cars.

One passenger's mother told local television the derailment followed a period where the trainshook at about 75 miles per hour (121 km per hour). She said that after the accident her daughter was helped out of a coach window.

Amtrak said its Southwest Chief Train 3 from Chicago to Los Angeles would detour around the crash scene on Monday, traveling from Newton, Kansas, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In one of Amtrak's deadliest recent accidents, eight people were killed last May when a New York-bound train derailed in Philadelphia. Forty-three others were seriously injured when the trainentered a curve at more than twice the recommended speed, investigators found.

In October, an Amtrak train destined for Washington, D.C., derailed in central Vermont after striking rocks that fell from a ledge onto the tracks. Seven people were injured, including one who was airlifted to a hospital, the Associated Press reported. 

The Vermonter train was carrying 98 passengers and four crew members when it derailed at around 10:30 a.m. in Northfield, about 20 miles southwest of Montpelier.

Last week, nine people were injured when a passenger train derailed near San Jose, Calif.

An Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) commuter train left its tracks last Monday after hitting a fallen tree. Passengers said they believe the first two cars derailed when the train hit a tree that had fallen during a mud slide caused by heavy rain, according to San Jose TV station KNTV. 

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the state of California has spent the last decade trying to improve train safety following a particularly bad accident in 2005, and the state was the first to implement Positive Train Control (PTC), a GPS system designed to prevent rail accidents.

 (Reporting by Chris Michaud in New York and Ian Simpson and David Morgan in Washington; Editing by Ralph Boulton, Andrea Ricci and Jonathan Oatis))

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