One Killed, Dozens Injured in Amtrak Derailment

YAZOO CITY, Miss. – One person was killed and dozens more injured when the northbound City of New Orleans derailed Tuesday (April 6).

Meanwhile, members of Amtrak’s customer care team arrived at the wreck scene, about 25 miles north of Jackson, Miss. The team provided assistance for passengers, including accommodations, clothing, transportation and communication.

At the time of the wreck, there were 73 people aboard the train – 61 passengers and 12 crewmembers. Injured passengers were taken to six area medical facilities, where most were treated and released; four persons were admitted.

One person – 68-year-old Clara L. Downs of Chicago – was killed. It is unclear where Downs was in the train at the time of the wreck.

The train consisted of one engine, one baggage car, seven passenger cars and one unoccupied passenger car in transit. Preliminary reports from the scene indicate that all nine cars derailed, with the first seven of them coming to rest on their sides.

The locomotive remained on the tracks, which were owned by Canadian National/Illinois Central Railway.

“I heard the engineer blowing the horn, then we started jerking around,” a passenger, Mary Turnage, told The Associated Press. “I heard horrible sounds and then I was looking at the stars and the leaves on the trees.”

The southbound City of New Orleans, train  No. 59, which departed Chicago Tuesday evening, will terminate in Memphis with passengers bused to points south. Passengers scheduled to travel north aboard train No. 58 will be bussed to Memphis where they will board the train to Chicago.

The National Transportation Safety Board is launching a team to investigate the fatal wreck. Investigators arrived on the scene Wednesday and began looking at twisted segments of track, various reports indicate.

Ted Turpin, NTSB Investigator-In-Charge, will lead the 12-member team, which will include experts in the areas of track, equipment, and human performance. Other investigators will retrieve information from the train’s event recorder.

Amtrak’s last fatal wreck was in 2002. In that wreck, an Auto Train derailed in Crescent City, Fla., and killed four passengers and injured more than 150 others.

The wreck wasn’t the first for the site.

“A train carrying hazardous chemicals crashed on the same section of tracks in 1997, forcing the evacuation of about 4,000 people,” The Associated Press reported. “Three other freight trains have derailed within a five-mile stretch – one in 1986 and two in 1994.”