- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

A Manassas dump truck driver was killed yesterday when an 11-car Amtrak train slammed into his vehicle at nearly 80 mph, injuring several passengers and stranding the rest for more than seven hours.

Richard McNamara, 36, had just driven his rig across the railroad tracks pulling a trailer, and was backing up across the tracks to make a turn at 9:37 a.m. when he was hit by the train.

Amtrak said 277 passengers were aboard the Crescent train, which was on its way from New Orleans to Washington and New York. Five passengers were taken to the hospital, but those not hurt were being kept on the train, which had power from the second of two engines.

The crash occurred in a rural area about 35 miles southwest of Washington. There is no crossing gate at the intersection.

A crane was brought to the scene to remove the wreckage, which blocked both tracks. After that, the damaged engine was removed, allowing the second engine to pull the train to Washington.

Passengers, many of whom missed connecting trains or flights out of Washington, arrived at Union Station just after 5 p.m. Some passengers were on the train for almost 20 hours.

“It was bad. … I just feel bad for the guy who was killed,” said Nell Cross, 57, of Birmingham, Ala. Mrs. Cross was met by her cousin Mildred Rademaker, 57, and her husband Chuck Rademaker, 55, from Roanoake Rapids, N.C., who waited more than eight hours in Union Station.

Brian and Monica Sautter, of Greenwood, S.C., got on the train with their 7- and 3-year-old sons at 11 p.m. on Wednesday.

“We should have been in Boston now, getting a rental car to go to Maine,” said Mr. Sautter, who was taking his family to Portland for a wedding. Once the Sautters arrived at Union Station, they began looking for a train to Boston. The next one left at 10 last night for a nine-hour trip.

“Six hours was a long time to spend on a train, not knowing where it was,” Mr. Sautter said. His wife said the collision felt similar to plane turbulence. Other passengers said they felt a thump.

“We were shocked when we heard it was a dump truck,” Mrs. Sautter said.

Passengers said they were informed of developments over loudspeakers, but they learned of the truck driver’s death through cell phone calls from relatives and friends.

“They didn’t even offer us food until the sixth hour,” said Maxine Lebron, a D.C. resident who emerged from the train on the verge of tears.

Most passengers read, slept and talked with strangers.

Carol Cherry, 46, a Phoenix school teacher traveling home from Lynchburg with her husband after dropping off their daughters at college, missed her afternoon flight out of the city. But while talking to others in her car, she said she met a couple whose daughter lived a few doors down the hall from hers.

“It was our first time taking Amtrak and I probably won’t take it again,” Mrs. Cherry said.

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