Amtrak train derails in western Kansas, 30 passengers hospitalized

(Courtesy: Sally Canning)

GRAY COUNTY, Kansas – An Amtrak train derailed in southwest Kansas early Monday morning.

The train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when five cars derailed just after midnight about 20 miles west of Dodge City.  The train had about 131 passengers and 14 crew members on board. Officials say up to 32 people were transported to area hospitals in Garden and Dodge City. Of those transported, 29 passengers were discharged.

“We had fire departments here and rescues here from Montezuma, Copland, Ingalls, and Cimarron, Garden City. We brought ambulances in from Garden City and from Montezuma, Cimarron and Dodge City. We also brought a helicopter in from life team which landed on the highway to transport one of the patients out,” said Rex Beemer, Gray County Assistant Manager and rural fire coordinator

Passengers of Amtrak train that derailed in Gray County receive green wrist band to indicate they are not injured. Courtesy Sally Canning
Passengers of Amtrak train that derailed in Gray County receive green wrist band to indicate they are not injured. (Courtesy: Sally Canning)

All other passengers were transported to the 4-H Recreation Center in Cimarron. KSN talked to passenger Greg Jones of Baltimore, Maryland about the derailment.  He was taken to Cimarron after the accident.

“It was bone chillin. It really was. At the first moment, we felt the hydraulics. We thought it may be a little bump. Once we heard the shouts, we knew there was something really wrong,” said Jones. “Once it happened, the adrenaline is pumping. We wanted to make sure everyone around you is okay.”

Sally Canning tweeted a picture from the Cimarron shelter saying, “Green arm bands and water for those of us not injured. Waiting in a Cimarron Kansas community shelter for next steps.”

Kelsey Wilson, 21, said was awoken when she felt the ride “getting really bumpy” and the train started to shake. Wilson, who was returning to Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, after spending spring break at home in Pueblo, Colorado, said her car disconnected from the one in front and that she hit her head as it overturned. Wilson said she escaped through the top of the flipped car then slid down the side before she “passed out.” She was taken to a hospital and released with a neck brace.

Amtrak said it was working with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to investigate. Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said in an email that the agency was sending a team to investigate. He said more information would be released once the team arrived in Kansas.

A government official told the AP that an engineer noticed a significant bend in a rail ahead and hit the emergency brakes before the derailment.

The U.S. official who was briefed on the investigation into the early Monday derailment of the Amtrak train says the train appears to have been travelling at about 75 mph when the engineer pulled the emergency brake, slowing the train.

To check on the status on someone from the train derailment, you can call 1-800-523-9101.

Amtrak sent this statement after the derailment:

“Just after midnight CT, Amtrak Southwest Chief Train 4, operating from Los Angeles to Chicago, derailed several coaches approximately 20 miles west of Dodge City, Kan., on track owned and maintained by BNSF. There were approximately 128 passengers and 14 crew members on board the train that had two locomotives and nine cars. Local emergency responders provided on-site response, with approximately 11 passengers transported to Western Plains Hospital in Dodge City.

All other passengers were transported to the 4-H Recreation Center in Cimarron and will be provided alternate transportation to their final destination. The Red Cross and other relief agencies are on-site providing assistance to those passengers. We are working with BNSF to investigate the cause of the incident.

Amtrak Southwest Chief Train 3, operating from Chicago to Los Angeles will detour from Newton, Kan., to Albuquerque, N.M., for trains originating March 13 and 14. Alternate transportation is being arranged.”

Red Cross sent this statement after the derailment:

At the request of the emergency manager, a team of seven #RedCross disaster responders are supporting passengers that were on board a train that has derailed by handing out blankets, hydration and snacks to passengers. Our team will continue to work with emergency officials to give help and hope to those affected by this incident.”


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