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Amtrak train carrying 175 people from Calif. to Chicago derails in Neb.; 22 are taken to hospitals

The train struck equipment on the tracks in Nebraska near the Kansas and Colorado borders. It was unclear how fast the train was going at the time. The train struck equipment on the tracks in Nebraska near the Kansas and Colorado borders. It was unclear how fast the train was going at the time. (Bill Coe/Mccook Daily Gazette via Associated Press)
Associated Press / August 27, 2011

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BENKELMAN, Neb. - An Amtrak train carrying about 175 passengers from California to Chicago derailed yesterday after striking equipment on the tracks in southwest Nebraska, and 22 were taken to hospitals, a spokesman said.

Two locomotives tipped on their sides and three of the California Zephyr’s 10 passenger cars left the tracks about 8 a.m. near Benkelman, near the Kansas and Colorado borders, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

A county spokesman said none of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening.

Dundy County Hospital spokeswoman Sandy Noffsinger said seven patients were being treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.

Passenger Harvey Evans, 37, of Grand Island, said it appeared that the train struck a crane doing demolition on a nearby grain silo.

“All of a sudden I hear brakes. [The] train’s rolling, rocking, moving side to side,’’ he said.

It has “been a long, rough trip,’’ said Evans, in part because the train traveling to Chicago from Emeryville, Calif., was already running about eight hours behind schedule after hitting an abandoned car on the tracks Wednesday night near Salt Lake City.

“It’s been one thing after another,’’ Evans said.

Amtrak said passengers who were not taken to hospitals rode school buses to a high school gym in Benkelman, where Dundy County-Stratton Public Schools secretary Stacey Waters said volunteers were providing food and water.

Amtrak was renting private buses so the passengers could resume their journeys east, Magliari said.

It was unclear why the equipment was near or on the tracks and how fast the train was going.

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