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Published: Thursday, 7/9/2009

5 die in car-Amtrak train crash in Canton, Mich.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CANTON, Mich. An Amtrak passenger train carrying about 150 people struck a car at a crossing west of Detroit on Thursday, killing all five people in the sedan, authorities said.

The crossing has a gate and flashing lights that were believed to be working when the car approached, said Sgt. Mark Gajeski, a police spokesman.

Police did not know the ages of the victims, however, the Detroit Free Press reported on its Web site that all the dead were teenagers.

The bodies remained trapped in the sedan two hours after the crash, Sergeant Gajeski said. He said the train typically travels about 67 mph at the site.

The only reported medical problem among the approximately 150 people on the train was a case of a passenger with an asthma attack, the sergeant said.

The crash occurred about 12:30 p.m. about 50 miles north of Toledo and 20 miles west of Detroit, police Sgt. Craig Wilsher said.

Sergeant Wilsher said the vehicle was heading north when it crossed the train tracks and was hit, pushing the car about 150 feet from one crossing to another.

The train was on its way from Detroit to Chicago, said Marc Magliari, a Chicago-based Amtrak spokesman. He said six passenger trains transit the crossing each day.

There is every indication the train crew was doing exactly what it should have been doing and that there was no malfunction of the train, he said. They can t make vehicles, or pedestrians for that matter, heed signals.

This is tragic for both the family of those who died and the train crew, he said.

Amtrak train 353 remained at the scene with all the passengers on board nearly three hours after the crash, but police said the train, minus the front engine, would return shortly to the station in Dearborn. Buses will take the passengers to the Ann Arbor station, where they will catch a later train to Chicago, Magliari said.

The train which has a front and rear engine and five passenger cars was stopped near a landfill. The mangled sedan was pushed against the front of the train and investigators covered it with greenish-gray tarp.

There is a warning device with a flashing light and gates at the crossing where the crash occurred, said Rudy Husband, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern Corp., which owns the track. Husband said he couldn t say if the device was working at the time of the crash. That will be part of the investigation, he said.

Last year, 119 people died in Amtrak accidents, usually when trains struck vehicles or pedestrians at railroad crossings, according to figures from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet decided whether to investigate the crash, spokesman Keith Holloway said.

Preliminary information indicates that there was no derailment, there were no fatalities on board the Amtrak train, he said. We don t always investigate grade-crossing accidents.



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