3 dead, several hurt after Amtrak train derails in Missouri after hitting truck

Three people were killed and others were injured when a passenger train travelling from Los Angeles to Chicago struck a dump truck and derailed in a remote, rural area of Missouri on Monday, officials said.

Train was carrying 243 passengers and 12 crew members from L.A. to Chicago

Missouri train derailment leaves several dead, dozens injured

1 year ago
Duration 1:39
Several people are dead and dozens more injured, after an Amtrak train struck a dump truck at an uncontrolled crossing in Missouri and derailed.

Three people were killed and others were injured when a passenger train travelling from Los Angeles to Chicago struck a dump truck and derailed in a remote, rural area of Missouri on Monday, officials said.

Two of the people who died were on the train and one was in the truck, Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesperson Cpl. Justin Dunn said. It was not immediately clear exactly how many people were hurt, the patrol said, but hospitals reported receiving more than 40 patients from the crash and were expecting more.

The Southwest Chief was carrying 243 passengers and 12 crew members when the collision happened near Mendon at 12:42 p.m. CT, Amtrak said.

The collision occurred at a rural intersection on a gravel road with no crossing arms, Dunn said. The Highway Patrol said seven cars derailed.

Passenger Jason Drinkard told KMBC-TV in Kansas City that the car he was in suddenly tipped over and people flew out of their seats and landed on each other.

"Seats were coming apart. Bags were going everywhere," said Drinkard, who boarded at Kansas City's Union Station. "And then, after it stopped, you could smell the fumes. And so people started panicking, thinking it was going to catch fire, so we tried to get out as quick as possible."

A train lying on its side after derailing with people on top helping the injured.
An Amtrak passenger train lies on its side after derailing near Mendon, Mo., on Monday. The Southwest Chief was carrying 243 passengers when it collided with a dump truck. (Dax McDonald/The Associated Press)

Passengers included students, boy scouts

"It's too early to speculate on why the truck was on the tracks," said Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). A team of NTSB investigators will arrive Tuesday, she said. Trains won't be able to run on the track for "a matter of days" while they gather evidence, she added.

At one point, helicopter video shown by KMBC-TV in Kansas City from the scene showed rail cars on their side as emergency responders used ladders to climb into one of them. The video also showed six medical helicopters parked nearby waiting to transport patients.

Nearly 20 local and state law enforcement agencies, ambulance services, fire department and medical hospital services responded, Dunn said.

Workers in reflective vests work at the site of a derailed train.
Workers inspect the scene after the derailment. At least three people died and dozens were injured. (Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press)

Dian Couture was in the dining car with her husband celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary when she heard a loud noise and the train wobbled and then crashed onto its side.

"The people on our left-hand side flew across and hit us, and then we were standing on the windows on the right-hand side of the car," Couture told WDAF-TV. "Two gentlemen in the front came up, stacked a bunch of things and popped out the window and literally pulled us out by our hands."

Passengers on the train included 16 youths and eight adults from two Boy Scout troops who were travelling home to Appleton, Wisc., after a backcountry excursion in New Mexico, but no one in the group was seriously injured, said Scott Armstrong, director of national media relations for the Boy Scouts of America. The Scouts administered first aid to several injured passengers, including the driver of the dump truck, Armstrong said.

Close-up of tire debris beside the track.
Debris sits near railroad tracks after the derailment. (Dax McDonald/The Associated Press)

High school students from Pleasant Ridge High School in Easton, Kan., who were headed to a Future Business Leaders of America conference in Chicago, were also aboard, Superintendent Tim Beying told The Star.

Area farmer reported potential danger

Mike Spencer, who grows corn and soybeans on the land surrounding the intersection where the crash occurred, said everyone in Mendon understands that the intersection is dangerous, especially for those driving heavy, slow farm equipment. The approach to the tracks is on an inclining gravel road and it's difficult to see trains coming in either direction, he said.

Spencer said he had contacted state transportation officials, Chariton County commissioners and BNSF Railway about the potential danger. Spencer said the dump truck driver was hauling rock for a levee on a local creek, a project that had been ongoing for a couple days.

A train on its side in a field of green vegetation.
An area resident said the crossing is dangerous because it's hard to see trains approaching. (Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press)

Amtrak is a federally supported company that operates more than 300 passenger trains daily in nearly every contiguous U.S. state and parts of Canada.

It was the second Amtrak collision in as many days. Three people were killed Sunday afternoon when an Amtrak commuter train smashed into a car in Northern California, authorities said.

The Southwest Chief takes about two days to travel from Los Angeles to Chicago. Mendon, with a population of about 160, is about 135 kilometres northeast of Kansas City.

Ladders are used to rescue people from the train. (Reuters)

With files from Reuters