Breaking News Blog

Tuesday, Oct 02 2012 11:21 AM

Amtrak resumes service after collision

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    At least 20 passengers suffered minor to moderate injuries Monday when a big rig truck collided with a southbound Amtrak train south of Hanford.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Elaine Leon was on her way to San Diego when the accident occurred.

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Buses arrive at the Bakersfield Amtrak station carrying passengers involved in a crash near Hanford Monday between a big rig truck and Amtrak train heading to Bakersfield. The passengers were transferred to another bus at the Bakersfield station to continue their journey. No major injuries were reported but at least 20 passengers suffered minor to moderate injuries.

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By Californian staff and wire reports

HANFORD — The crossing gate was down, lights were flashing and bells were ringing when a big-rig crashed into a passing Amtrak passenger train on Monday afternoon, an Amtrak official said.

Investigators probing the cause of the crash south of Hanford plan to look at the condition of the big-rig’s driver — identified Tuesday as Macario Medina, 32, of McFarland — and of the truck.

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said 39 people were injured in the crash.

Authorities have described the injuries as mostly bumps and bruises although Graham said at least one person suffered a broken leg.

"The whole crew was shaken up, obviously, so what we do is give them immediate relief from duty if they need it and have counselors check in with them within a 24-hour period," she said Tuesday.

Investigators will first try to determine Medina’s state and then look at the vehicle, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Jerry Pierce. Medina went through the warning arms and hit the train before his truck overturned, according to the CHP.

Pierce said Tuesday morning that he had not yet interviewed Medina, who suffered moderate injuries.

The impact from the truck pushed two of the train’s four cars and its locomotive off the tracks. The train traveled about 600 feet (180 meters) after the collision before hitting a switchback and derailing, the CHP has said.

Officials have not determined how fast the train or the truck were going, but the average speed for Amtrak through the area is 70 mph to 80 mph, while the speed limit on the roadway where the truck was travelling is 55 mph, according to the CHP.

After the crash, metal pieces from the truck could be seen inside the train, which was covered by cotton seeds. Several pieces of luggage were also scattered.

The train was on its way from Oakland to Bakersfield. It was being pushed by the locomotive and was struck between the locomotive and the last car, Graham said.

The track, meanwhile, reopened Tuesday morning after crews replaced hundreds of feet of damaged track and some signal equipment, BNSF Railway spokeswoman Lena Kent said. BNSF owns the line.

Amtrak resumed its regular service. The segment reopened at 6:34 a.m. Tuesday, and the first train to traverse the site — a southbound locomotive traveling from Sacramento to Bakersfield — did so four hours later, Graham said. The first northbound train crossed the accident scene at about 11:30 a.m., she said.

Amtrak had been moving passengers past the site by bus since Monday night. Graham said that was done on Tuesday’s first two trips through Hanford.

— The Associated Press and The Californian contributed to this report.

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