- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

CRESCENT CITY, Fla. (AP) The track where an Amtrak Auto Train derailed in a deadly mess of mangled cars and rails was cleared yesterday, allowing the first trains to pass through this northern Florida town since the accident.
The original tracks were torn out by Thursday's derailment, which killed four persons and injured more than 150. The first coal train that moved through yesterday morning was on temporary rails, said Gary Sease, spokesman for CSX, the freight railroad that owns the track.
The 39-foot-long sections of temporary track can hold slow-moving trains at 10 mph. The company plans to make improvements this week to allow the temporary tracks to withstand faster trains. He said an average of 28 trains a day is normally scheduled there.
As the coal train passed, workers continued clearing downed trees and debris from the area with bulldozers and cranes.
The Auto Train had been headed for Washington with 418 passengers and 34 crew members, as well as 200 automobiles stacked in 23 cars, when it derailed Thursday.
Its two engines and first two cars stayed on the tracks, but more than half its 40 cars went off, throwing passengers to the cars' floors and against walls.
Sylvia Sheldon said she and her husband, David, were sitting on a couch in the lounge car when the train derailed, and the couch fell on her.
"I had a guardian angel watching over us," she said.
An Amtrak employee bent over so the couple, in their 70s, could climb on his back to get out through a window, she said. The Boca Raton couple had been returning to Toronto, where they live part-time.
The lead engineer told the National Transportation Safety Board that he saw a disjointed track about an hour into a trip from Sanford to Lorton, Va., and slammed on the engine's brake. Seconds later, a backup engineer in the locomotive cab and a conductor two cars back felt the train hit disjointed track and switched on emergency brakes as well, NTSB board member George Black said.

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