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Amtrak Derailment Causes Three Serious Injuries

Aired July 29, 2002 - 15:46   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips here at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

If you have just tuned in with us, we are following a breaking news story. It's been about an hour and a half now, a train derailment in Kensington, Maryland. Last night, 7:00 p.m., an Amtrak train left Chicago, Illinois, headed to Washington, D.C. Just 10 minutes before it was supposed to arrive in D.C., the train derailed; 190 people on board, 12 crew members.

The greatest news here is that, so far, no fatalities have been reported; however, a number of people critically injured -- right now, fire and rescue crews trying to get the injured individuals out of these passenger cars, 11 passenger cars that have overturned. They are treating survivors on the scene, treating the injured on the scene, and right now busting through those windows that you can see, and the doors, trying to get those that are trapped inside of these cars out of there and away from any possible dangerous -- or danger that could occur.

We are told that there were a number of power lines that were knocked out. And that was of grave concern to these rescue workers. But they were able to turn off the power and now continue the rescue efforts.

Now, live on the scene, our Jeanne Meserve got there quite quickly, leaving D.C., heading to the scene -- Jeanne, take it from there.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, as you mentioned, no fatalities.

But we are told there are three serious injuries in this wreck. The media is being kept about a quarter-mile away on this bridge, but I have with me a young man who very got close to it. Harrison Long (ph) lives in the neighborhood.

Harrison, how quickly did you get to the scene?

HARRISON LONG, EYEWITNESS: I was here about five to seven minutes after the accident. I live down the street from the accident scene.

MESERVE: And what did you see when you got there? LONG: When I got here, the rescue operation has already commenced. The local fire department is right in the neighborhood. They were there immediately. They were pulling people, one by one, out of the trains. Several of the train cars are knocked halfway over. Others are completely overturned.

A rescue operation is going on at each train. A lot of people were able to walk out under their own power and were being led off to the side and being taken off to a local armory, where they were being attended to.

MESERVE: Did you see many serious injuries?

LONG: I saw several serious injuries. Most of the injuries seemed to be minor, though, scrapes, cuts, bruises, that nature.

MESERVE: How were the passengers reacting to what had happened?

LONG: The passengers were calming up calm. They looked a little shocked, as you would expect them to be. Most of them were carrying their own luggage off with them.

The damage seemed to really be centered around two cars. And that's where the most operations are taking place. They were also the farthest away from where I could get to.

MESERVE: I heard you describing this as looking like a toy train that a kid had played with. Explain what you mean.

LONG: Well, it's a derailment, not a collision. So, it just looks like a toy train some kid had knocked over A hill. The trains are all intact. They have just been toppled over. There's no -- the trains didn't tear apart or anything. And so there's not, I guess, as much chance of being serious injuries that way.

MESERVE: Was there anything obvious to you that might indicate the cause of this crash?

LONG: The track looked warped, from where we were standing. We don't know if that was a result of the train derailing or something else.

The heat -- we have had a lot of changes in the weather here. It was about 30 degrees cooler two days ago. So, to have the weather change like that, a lot of people were thinking it may have had something to do with that, the severe heat in the area warping the rails.

MESERVE: You were mentioning there had been another train derailment in Silver Spring not too long ago. Was this significantly different? Did you see that one?

LONG: I didn't see that one. That one was a collision, though. There was fire involved. About 11 people died in that crash. This one was a single-train accident. So there wasn't a collision or the severe damage you see with that. MESERVE: And you saw no sign of fire at all?

LONG: There's no fire. The engine car is upright and intact.

MESERVE: Harrison Long, thanks so much for joining us here today.

Once again, we are about a quarter-of-a-mile away. Harrison got a much better perspective than most of us have. As you can see, if you look down this bridge, the media is crammed in here cheek by jowl, all of us fighting to get a little bit more information than is currently available. Occasionally, you will see helicopters traveling overhead.

Many of these appear to be news helicopters, not rescue helicopters. However, the rescue vehicles are jammed all along the roads on either side of this bridge. It has tied up traffic on Connecticut Avenue, which is a major thoroughfare in and out of Washington, D.C. It promises to be a mess at rush hour. But, of course, there's a much worse problem for the people who are on board that train -- Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, our Jeanne Meserve live on the scene there -- Jeanne, thank you so much.

If you are just tuning in, breaking news coverage right now: It's been about an hour and 40 minutes. This train derailed in Kensington, Maryland. It had left Chicago, Illinois, notice 7:00 last night, headed to Washington, D.C. About 10 minutes before it reached, D.C., it derailed.

Now, one of the reasons being talked about right now -- I interviewed not long ago a former inspector general of the Department of Transportation. And we talked about the possibility of heat possibly causing these tracks to buckle. I asked her how often these tracks are inspected, what company is in charge of that. She mentioned CSX is the company in charge of inspecting these tracks and dealing with inspection mechanisms.

Indeed, she made the point that the tracks could be and should be inspected a lot more often than they are. We are trying to get in touch with CSX. We want to let you know. So far, the company officials are not ready to talk right now. We are working that, though, to bring you what we are trying to make fair and balanced coverage of a situation, just trying to figure out what went wrong here and why this train derailed, 190 people on board, 12 crew members.

The best news here so far: no fatalities reported, a number of very serious injuries, that according to our Jeanne Meserve there on the scene, also a freelance photographer who had been calling in to us. He's there on the scene. He has been talking with the fire chief. Right now, you can see fire crews still trying to rescue those injured individuals trapped inside those passenger cars. Eleven cars right now, we are told, have been overturned. Now, if you are a family member, now, Amtrak says they are getting overwhelming, or a number of -- an overwhelming number of phone calls. So, please, only call this number if indeed you had a family member, have a family member or loved one that was on train No. 30 leaving Chicago last night at 7:00 p.m. heading to Washington, D.C. This is the number you can call: 1-800-523-9101.

You are watching breaking news, a train derailment in Kensington, Maryland.




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