Sunday, July 10, 2011

Terror Rides the Zephyr

"I just couldn't believe it. Just seeing the train where I was, all blasted up and people jumping out to save themselves."

These words from Mary Frances Turner, 64, of Antioch California. She survived the collision when an out of control tractor pulling two empty trailers, ran into the side of the Amtrak California Zephyr on June 24th.

Mary was one of 204 passengers and a crew of 14, whose life forever changed on a beautiful cloudless day, at a well marked, obstruction free highway crossing in the Nevada desert.

Mary remembers seeing a flash of fire before winding up on the floor.

"At first, everything happened so quickly. Once I got up, it slowed down. It was almost like a movie." She was able to watch the horrific scene play out because the Amtrak California Zephyr train had been going around a curve when the truck hit.

Click here to read Ms Turners first hand account of the wreck and how it has affected her life following the accident.

A second account appears in the Lahowtan Valley News.

The Ortiz family from San Jose, California, home bound following a vacation in Utah visiting relatives. They boarded the train in Salt Lake City.

"I was sleeping on the side that was hit," said Abel Ortiz, 42, from San Jose, Calif. "I slid from the seat down. As I looked up, I saw the train being ripped up. It created an opening in our car. I saw the flames come over the windows at the side like a quick flash of flames. Then smoked filled up everything. There was some screaming."

However, Sara Ortiz was awake and heard the 18-wheeler crash into the coach. "I was awake. I didn't see it but [I]felt the impact," said Sara Ortiz, 43. "The car rocked, and I felt it was going to keep tipping."

Their 13-year-old son thought he was dreaming. "I saw the flames rush by," Aaron Ortiz said. "I thought I was sleeping but I said this isn't a dream. I was scared. On a scale of 1 to 10, this was an 11."

A third account, also in the Lahowtan Valley News.

Monte Mentry, 75, of Sebastapol, California, said he has ridden a train for years, but the impact was beyond words.

"The train rocked, and I was bouncing up and down in the seat. Everything in the luggage rack came down," said Mentry, who also boarded the train in Salt Lake City. "There was confusion at first. We were told to go to the back of the train. We walked down the middle aisle, single file."

Mentry said he later had the opportunity to walk up near to the front of the train. "The first car was burning," he described. "The side was ripped on the second passenger train. The fire at that time was contained only to the first passenger car."

And finally, this interview with Linda and Clayton Cook, on ABC News.

The Major Accident Investigation Team of the Nevada Highway Patrol-Northern Command and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dispatched a teams, representing various specialties, to determine the exact cause of this tragedy.

NTSB's Earl Weener gave a detailed briefing on June 27th.

The NTSB is reconstructing the Peterbilt tractor in Fallon Nevada, to further understand why the vehicle impaled itself in the side of the train, killing the driver and an Amtrak conductor.

Meanwhile, the NTSB has yet another fatality seeking answers in Maine.

See Also:
California Zephyr: Update
RITS: Running into Trains

2 Comments - Click here:

LinesWest said...

What a disaster all around. I believe I read that the truck was empty? If were full I imagine the coach could have rocked right off the rails as it seems to have suffered quite a high speed side impact. That would have been disaster for all of the trailing cars as well.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Actually a trailer plus a "pup" half-length trailer. Had they been loaded I am sure cars would have derailed. As it was, all witness accounts mention "tipping" of the car.

Post a Comment

"Comment" is for sharing information related to this article. "Anonymous" comments are not published.