Lake City, S.C. Amtrak Derails : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Amtrak Derails; No Serious Injuries

by BRUCE SMITH Associated Press Writer

LAKE CITY, S.C. (AP) -- One minute, Barbara Clark was having a cup of coffee early Monday in the dining car of Amtrak's Silver Meteor. In the next moment, the car was thrown off the tracks, coming to rest at a 45-degree angle.

''We heard this click-like sound, and then the train shifted. We knew it. We just knew it and we just grabbed onto the table,'' said Clark, 60, of Sanford, Fla. ''We heard the wheels coming off the track. There is a sound it makes; I don't know how to tell you. It was horrible.''

Nine cars of the Silver Meteor, from New York to Jacksonville, Fla., derailed at about 7:30 a.m., about 15 minutes after a street sweeper jumped a curb and hit the tracks, damaging the rails, said Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Jo Nell. More than 40 people were sent to hospitals, mostly with ''little bumps and bruises,'' Nell said.

Two sleeping cars, four coach cars, a dining car, a lounge and a crew dorm jumped the tracks, Amtrak said. A wheel of the engine also left the rails. Two other cars did not derail.

The National Transportation Safety Board was looking into the cause of the derailment.

''We do know there was a sweeper operating,'' NTSB investigator Jay Kivowitz said. ''We cannot say at this time that was the cause of this accident.''

There were 218 passengers and 15 crew members on board, Amtrak said. At least 46 were taken to hospitals for treatment.

Clark injured her ribs and had to be lifted out of the tilted car through a window on a stretcher. She was taken to a hospital for X-rays and then released.

''You have some angels in this town. They gathered here this morning,'' she said. Lake City is a town of about 7,000 people, about 70 miles east of Columbia in northeastern South Carolina.

Larry Hewitt, who was traveling to Beaufort, said he was able to open an emergency window and climb out. He likened it to climbing through a skylight in a ceiling.

''I heard a few funny noises, and I felt it was tilting. I knew what was going on,'' he said.

AP-NY-08-21-00 2122EDT< 

-- Rachel Gibson (, August 21, 2000

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