Amtrak train hits crane, derails in Nebraska

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 26, 2011 9:43 PM

OMAHA, Neb (Reuters) - An Amtrak train carrying 175 passengers and 17 crew members struck a crane in southwest Nebraska on Friday, partially derailing and sending nearly a dozen people to local hospitals, authorities said.

There were no reports of life-threatening injuries from the collision Friday morning west of Benkelman, Nebraska, that derailed two locomotives and five rail cars, Amtrak said. The train's five other cars stayed upright and on the tracks.

Amtrak said some passengers and crew were taken to three area hospitals, but most were treated and released.

Seven people were treated at Dundy County Hospital in Benkelman, spokeswoman Sandy Noffsinger said, describing them as reporting neck and back injuries. Four other people with lesser injuries were sent to other facilities, she said.

The train struck a construction crane that was razing an old grain elevator adjacent to the tracks in an unincorporated area west of Benkelman, which is near the Nebraska-Kansas border, a county official said.

The two locomotives were tipped on their left side, a baggage car just behind was tilted at a 45 degree angle and other cars were off the tracks but upright, a bystander said.

The California Zephyr train had left the San Francisco Bay area for Chicago on August 24. Passengers were taken from the scene to Dundy County Stratton High School in Benkelman nearby and later transported east by chartered buses to their destinations, Amtrak said.

The train was running on BNSF Railway Co tracks when it struck the crane, a portion of which obstructed the tracks, Amtrak said.

Amtrak said it had suspended California Zephyr eastbound operations from the San Francisco area and westbound from Chicago temporarily to deploy equipment and crews. It plans to resume service from both on August 29.

BNSF temporarily halted trains operating on the line where the accident occurred, but had not yet issued a service advisory to customers, BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said earlier on Friday.

(Additional reporting by James Kelleher in Chicago; Writing by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Jerry Norton)