At least two killed, several hurt in Amtrak accident

Steve Ranson/Lahontan Valley NewsFirefighters work to extinguish a fire at the scene of an accident where a semi-truck crashed into an Amtrak train. At least two people were killed.

Steve Ranson/Lahontan Valley NewsFirefighters work to extinguish a fire at the scene of an accident where a semi-truck crashed into an Amtrak train. At least two people were killed.

FALLON - At least two people were killed Friday morning, but that number could increase, following a fiery collision between an Amtrak train and a semi-truck on a rural northern Nevada highway.

According to Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Lopez, the middle-aged truck driver from Battle Mountain and a crew member - believed to be a female conductor - were killed in the 11:25 a.m. accident Friday on Highway 95 Alternate.

"There have been two confirmed dead but it could possibly be more," he said.

He said until a team can enter the charred cars it will not be known if others also were killed.

"We have to gain access into those trains," he said.

According to Churchill County Sheriff's Capt. John Haugen, the accident happened at the railroad crossing about a mile south of Trinity Junction at Interstate 80 and Highway 95 Alternate in Churchill County.

Lopez said the northbound tractor carrying two empty dump trailers failed to stop at the railroad crossing, "striking the Amtrak in the second dorm car, which is the fourth car back."

He said witnesses reported the railroad crossing was down and the lights were operating when the semi barreled through them into the train.

The Nevada Highway Patrol is investigating because of the truck's involvement, while the National Transportation Safety Board is also conducting an investigation because of the train, said Lopez.

Some 20 injured passengers and crew were taken from the scene to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno and Banner Churchill Memorial Hospital in Fallon. Others received treatment once they reached Fallon in school buses, said Lopez.

A spokesman for Renown said two people were in critical condition, four were in serious condition and three were in fair condition. The conditions of those taken to a hospital in Fallon were not immediately known.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari in Oakland, Calif., said most of the injuries among the train's 204 passenger and 14 crew members were non-life threatening, but he had no other immediate details about injuries.

The California Zephyr was en route from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif., making several stops along the way to pick up or load passengers.

Lopez said the tractor-trailer was northbound toward I-80 when it slammed into the train. Witnesses to the incident reported the railroad crossing signals were down and working at the time of the accident, he said.

The crash shut down a section of U.S. 95 between I-80 and Fallon.

Nevada Department of Transportation Spokesman Scott Magruder said the road will likely be closed through the weekend for investigators.

"U.S. 95 between I-80 and Fallon is closed indefinitely, it will not be open anytime soon," said Magruder. "People will have to take an alternate route on Highway 50A."

The tracks cross the highway about three miles south of I-80 in the heart of the Forty-Mile Desert.

Many agencies responded to the scene of the accident including Naval Air Station Fallon that dispatched three Navy search and rescue helicopters and the Federal Fire Department.

"People who were off today were called back to man the base," said Fire Chief Willie Youles.

NAS Fallon Executive Officer Otto Sieber said flight operations at the base were suspended until the federal fire trucks were released from the incident.

The following agencies also responded: Churchill County Sheriff's Office, Fallon/Churchill and Naval Air Station Fallon fire departments, Bureau of Land Management, the Nevada Highway Patrol, Navy Search and Rescue, Churchill County School District and ambulances from REMSA, Pershing County, Banner Churchill Community Hospital and Central Lyon County and Care Flight helicopter.

• F.T. Norton and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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