A passenger train derailed overnight in a rural area of southwestern Kansas, injuring at least 32 people, officials said Monday.
The Amtrak train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when it left the tracks just after midnight near Cimarron, a small community about 160 miles west of Wichita. Eight cars derailed, four of which ended up on their sides, the company said in a statement.
A government official says an engineer noticed a significant bend in a rail ahead and hit the emergency brakes before the train derailed.
The U.S. official, who was briefed on the investigation, says the train appears to have been traveling at about 75 mph when the engineer pulled the emergency brake, slowing the train.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing federal probe.
Daniel Aiken, 21, of Lenexa, said he heard screaming as he climbed out of an 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.”
Passenger Daniel Szczerba described the chaos for Wichita TV station KWCH.
“All the lights went out, it was dark,” passenger Daniel 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.”
Thirty-two people were taken to hospitals for treatment, including 29 who were released later that morning, the railroad said. Ashley Rogers, a spokeswoman for Grey County, said none of the injuries were life-threatening.
The derailment happened along a straight stretch of track surrounded by flat farmland.
Amtrak didn’t say how fast the train was traveling when it derailed, and it didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking further details. It was foggy in the area at the time, but it wasn’t immediately known if that played any role.
Andy Williams, a spokesman for BNSF Railway, which owns the track, referred questions to Amtrak. He said he say when the track was last inspected while the investigation is ongoing. Amtrak said it is working with BNSF on the investigation.
Uninjured passengers were taken to the Cimarron community center to wait for Amtrak to make arrangements to transport them to their destinations.
Kelsey Wilson, 21, said she woke up 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 statement said the train consisted of two locomotives and nine cars and that there were 128 passengers and 14 crew members on board. It wasn’t known yet whether any crew members were among the injured.
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.