Amtrak train derails west of Cimarron injuring 32 passengers

Credit: Daniel Szczerba

GRAY COUNTY, Kansas – An Amtrak train derailed in southwest Kansas early Monday, moments after an engineer noticed a significant bend in a rail and applied the emergency brakes, an official said.  At least two people were critically injured.

The train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when eight cars derailed just after midnight about 20 miles west of Dodge City. The train had about 131 passengers and 14 crew members on board. The train, known as the Southwest Chief, was apparently traveling at about 75 mph when the engineer noticed the deformity in the rail and pulled the brakes, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.

Officials say up to 32 people were transported to area hospitals in Garden and Dodge City. Of those transported, 29 passengers were discharged. Caytie Martin, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Texas Healthcare System, says the two were airlifted to the Amarillo, Texas, hospital.

“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.

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.

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)

“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.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene. Authorities were examining tire tracks leading to the rails. The damage did not appear to be intentional, Gray County sheriff’s Deputy J.G. Sharp said.

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

Amtrak statement after the derailment:

Just after midnight CT today, Amtrak Southwest Chief, Train 4, operating from Los Angeles to Chicago, derailed eight cars approximately 20 miles west of Dodge City, Kan., on track owned and maintained by BNSF.

There were 131 passengers and 14 crew members on board the train that had two locomotives and nine cars.
Local emergency responders provided on-site response and transported 32 passengers to hospitals in Garden City and Dodge City. Of those transported, 29 passengers were discharged this morning. All other passengers were transported to the 4-H Recreation Center in Cimarron, Kan., 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.

Amtrak is cooperating with the NTSB who is investigating the cause of the incident.
Persons who were aboard this train at the time of the incident and friends and family of those aboard this train have a special number to call for information: 800-523-9101.

Amtrak Southwest Chief Trains 3 and 4, will detour from Newton, Kan., to Albuquerque, N.M., for trains originating March 13. Alternate transportation is being arranged for missed stops.

Red Cross 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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