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Amtrak train derails in Kan., 29 hurt

The train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when five cars derailed; the passengers were taken to hospitals for treatment


Passengers gather after a train derailed near Dodge City, Kan., Monday, March 14, 2016.

Daniel Szczerba via AP

The Associated Press

CIMARRON, Kan. — At least 29 people were injured when an Amtrak passenger train derailed in rural southwest Kansas early Monday, authorities said.

The train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when it came off the tracks just after midnight about 20 miles west of Dodge City, Amtrak said in a statement. Kansas Highway Patrol communication specialist Patricia Munford said five train cars derailed.

Grey County spokeswoman Ashley Rogers said no one has life-threatening injuries.

The rail company did not say how fast the train was traveling at the time of the derailment. Amtrak did not immediately return an Associated Press call seeking comment early Monday.

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.

The derailment occurred near Cimarron as the train was heading east to its regular Dodge City stop, about 160 miles west of Wichita.

Passenger Daniel Szczerba described the confusion as the cars derailed.

“All the lights went out, it was dark,” Szczerba told Wichita TV station KWCH. “People traveling in groups (of) four or five got thrown around the car as it turned over and lost people as they were trying to get out of the emergency exits.”

Amtrak said about 20 people were taken for medical treatment. But Rogers said the number of people taken to hospitals in Dodge City and Garden City rose to 29 after several people sought medical attention at a community building in the small town of Cimarron. The passengers were taken to the community center to wait for Amtrak to make arrangements to transport them to their destinations.

Amtrak statement said the train consisted of two locomotives and nine cars and that there were 128 passengers and 14 crew members on board.

Rogers said she went to the scene of the derailment along a straight stretch of tracks in rural farmland. Besides seeing five cars on their sides, two other cars were standing but off the tracks. The Red Cross was at the scene providing assistance.

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.

Daniel Aiken, 21, of Lenexa, Kansas, who was traveling with Wilson, said he heard screaming as he climbed out of their overturned car. He stopped to smell a fluid that was flowing through the car, fearful that it was fuel, but was reassured when he realized it was water.

“Once people realized the train wasn’t going to blow up,” he said, “they calmed down.”