- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

CRESCENT CITY, Fla. (AP) An Amtrak train barely an hour into a nonstop journey to the District derailed yesterday in northern Florida, killing six persons and injuring dozens, state police said.
The Auto Train carrying more than 460 people left Sanford after 4 p.m. It derailed after 5 p.m. in a rural area 44 miles from the station, and 14 passenger cars overturned.
"We just started hurtling and left the track and the next thing we knew, we were bouncing off the walls," said Bernie Morgan, traveling from Naples to Doylestown, Pa.
Firefighters carrying backboards climbed ladders to reach windows on the rail cars and helped dozens of people out. A makeshift triage center was set up at the site.
Six persons are known to have died, said Bill Leeper, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.
The train carried 483 passengers and crew, Putnam County Sheriff's Capt. Keith Riddick said. Amtrak said there were 425 passengers and 28 crew members, and the discrepancy could not be resolved immediately.
Three passengers were flown by helicopter to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Dr. Kevin Ferguson said. One person was in critical condition and the other two were in serious condition, he said.
Nine trauma patients were airlifted to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, spokeswoman Kate Holcomb said. A bus carrying 30 to 50 people with minor injuries was expected.
Ambulances and emergency vehicles crowded a road nearby, and school buses were taking passengers away from the scene. Rescuers painted orange C's on the bottom of the overturned cars once they determined they had been cleared of people.
"Suddenly you could feel the brakes scraping," said David Sheldon, 71, who was traveling from Boca Raton.
He said it took about 30 seconds for the train to come to stop.
"It seemed like forever," he said.
Robert Dodd Sr., 74, of Willingboro, N.J., said he and his wife were sitting down to dinner when the train derailed.
"The girl said, 'Do you want white or red wine?'" Mr. Dodd said at the triage center. "At first I said, 'White, no give me red,' and that's the last thing I remember."
The Rev. Lamar Taylor, the Volusia County sheriff's chaplain, walked from stretcher to stretcher to comfort victims.
In Washington, spokesman Greg Martin said the National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to the scene. The cause of the derailment was not immediately known.
The Auto Train consisted of two engines, 16 passenger cars and 23 auto racks, Amtrak said.
It travels between Sanford, and Lorton, Va., and is favored by families traveling between Florida's theme parks and beaches and Washington's landmarks.
The tracks are owned, operated and maintained by CSX Corp. Spokeswoman Jane Covington said the tracks were inspected about eight hours before the crash and were in good condition.

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