- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Carol Kenny was playing cards with her nephew, John Albrecht, yesterday when the Amtrak train in which they were riding ran off its tracks near Kensington.
"It was tilting, and you could feel it shifting," said Miss Kenny, 40, of Pittsburgh.
"We saw the train heading for the trees and just held on," said John, 11, who was returning to the District to see his mother.
Miss Kenny said she held her nephew close as their train car lurched to its side and crashed to the ground. A car in front of theirs slid into a ravine.
"It was really terrifying," Miss Kenny said, adding that she and John escaped through a passenger door.
Passengers were "screaming and hollering" in the confusion after the derailment, said Robert Bailey of Capitol Heights, whose train car turned on its side. He said he and his wife got out through a window and suffered minor injuries.
Ten Amtrak train cars lay just a few feet from houses in the Montgomery County suburb, witnesses said.
Two cars were in a ditch on the side of the tracks. Windows were shattered, and even after all of the passengers had been rescued, fire officials said searches continued for other victims.
"Everybody's out, but the cars are tilted, and we don't know if anyone is pinned under," said a volunteer for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department.
The tilted cars made it harder for rescue workers to get to people trapped inside, he said. And yesterday's searing heat, with near-100 degree temperatures, made the rescue effort more grueling.
Passenger Christine Riley, a schoolteacher from Fort Wayne, Ind., said she climbed out of a window and fell from the train into the arms of other passengers and rescuers below.
"You just had to drop and fall, and people would catch you," said Miss Riley, 49, who was treated and released last night from Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. "I can't believe nobody died. It looked terrible."
Harrison Lodge, who lives a few blocks from the accident site, said he knew something was wrong when he heard police and fire engine sirens blaring and rushed out to see what had happened.
"I saw the overturned cars and people being pulled out. Two of the cars appeared to be completely turned over," he said.
Mr. Lodge said some people were walking out of the train, carrying their luggage, while others were being carried out on stretchers. "It looked like a toy train knocked over," he said.
Steve Colburn, who owns a business about 300 yards from where the accident occurred, said the sound was overwhelming.
"We were all just staring. All my employees ran down. It sounded like something bad had happened," he said.
Several witnesses said they were relieved when they ran outside to investigate and found much of the train intact.
"I went down to the tracks and saw that the engine car was still standing up," said Ken Campbell, the head technician at Quality Discount Tire and Auto in the 4000 block of Howard Avenue, about 250 yards from where the crash occurred. "People who weren't injured were climbing out."
"I was in the back, and the car tilted sideways and then we got out the window," said Sincere Harris, 18, of Philadelphia.
Miss Harris' mother, Sheila, was trapped in the bathroom when the derailment occurred. Miss Harris said she found an ax and used it to crack open the bathroom door and rescue her mother.
Miss Harris' father, Narva, said he would rather not get on another train but probably will to get his family home to Philadelphia.
U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, visited the site shortly after the accident.
"It is rather miraculous that nobody died," she said, adding that she was waiting to hear about what had caused the derailment.
Fire teams from the District and Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Fairfax counties rushed to help at the site minutes after the accident.
Mrs. Morella commended them on their promptness.
"I didn't believe it could be as bad as it looks. I realized the enormity of it only after getting here. It is amazing how the rescue workers have come together to work on this," she said.
Red Cross officials said about 50 people were taken to Kensington's town hall late this afternoon. About 10 Red Cross workers were on the scene last night, providing food and water for crash investigators and support staff.
Town officials said the passengers were checked by paramedics and were offered food and water. Red Cross workers said none of the people brought to the hall suffered serious injury.

Margie Hyslop contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide