SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Several cars of the New York City-bound Amtrak Crescent with 218 people aboard went off the tracks early today as bags flew and jolted passengers clung to each other, authorities and passengers said.
There were no serious injuries, Amtrak said, adding it arranged for trains and buses to take stranded passengers to their destinations further up the East Coast as the busy Thanksgiving travel week was opening.
Seven of the nine cars on Train 20 from New Orleans went off the track but stayed upright, Amtrak said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. It said it had no immediate word on the cause as investigators from several agencies and work crews converged at the site.
Passenger Carrie Lambert told The Associated Press by telephone that she was at the back of the train when she felt the car start sway and then tilt.
“The car felt like it was about to flip over ... I was holding on to my brother for dear life,” the Atlanta woman told AP by phone. “Bags went everywhere. It was crazy. Really scary.”
The train was carrying 207 passengers and 11 crew members, Amtrak said.
Spartanburg County Deputy Fire Marshal Tony Barnett said by telephone that the cars had derailed. But Amtrak in its later email said only that the train had become disabled when the seven affected cars lost contact with the tracks.
Two locomotives remained on the tracks, authorities said.
“There are no cars overturned,” Barnett told The Associated Press from the scene about six miles west of Spartanburg in a semirural area where railway officials, firefighters, sheriffs’ officials and emergency first-responders also were on hand.
Capt. Derrick Miller with the Westview-Fairforest Fire Department told WSPA-TV the seven cars came off the tracks onto gravel. The station reported that work crews were at the scene deciding how to clear the area.
Barnett said there were no serious injuries, though he added four passengers with some minor injuries were taken to a hospital for further evaluation. He added that rail service was continuing on a nearby track that was unaffected.
Amtrak said the two locomotives of Train 20 also remained upright along with the passenger cars and a baggage car at the rear.
“Heating, lighting and other systems were quickly re-established aboard the train, with meals and other refreshments provided to the passengers,” said the Amtrak statement. Temperatures were in the 20s during the early morning hours.
She said afterward only two cars had heat as passengers waited for hours aboard the disabled train in the pre-dawn cold.
Lambert told AP the train had electricity, but only two cars had heat, as the passengers sat in the dark and waited for help on a wintry morning.
“We’re just sitting in the middle of the woods,” she said.
Some eight hours after the train derailed, more than 200 passengers were taken off the disabled cars and loaded early today onto buses, WYFF-TV reported.
Amtrak said the train had left New Orleans on Sunday morning and had been due in New York City later today.
It added that transportation was arranged to deliver passengers to their scheduled stops between Spartanburg and New York on buses that arrived around 7 a.m. Some passengers were being taken to Washington, D.C., to be placed on other trains.
Amtrak said the matter was being investigated by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, which owns and controls and maintains that portion of the Crescent’s route. The Federal Railroad Administration also was involved in the investigation, Amtrak added.