Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Investigators Paint Scene of Horror in Train Wreck Explosion of Diesel Fuel Burned beyond Recognition 11 Who Died

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Investigators Paint Scene of Horror in Train Wreck Explosion of Diesel Fuel Burned beyond Recognition 11 Who Died

Article excerpt

The crash of an Amtrak train and a local commuter train that killed 11 people in suburban Maryland on Friday happened when the outbound Amtrak train, running late, switched tracks to pass a halted freight train and struck the inbound commuter almost head-on, officials said Saturday.

Much like a car in a collision on a two-lane highway, the Amtrak train was just starting to swerve back into its lane when it struck the inbound commuter train in the suburban community of Silver Spring at 5:38 p.m.

It was not yet clear who had the right of way, said John J. Goglia, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The lead Amtrak locomotive tore open the Maryland Transit Authority passenger car, and drenched it in misting diesel fuel from the loc omotive's ruptured 3,500-gallon belly tanks. The fuel exploded in an instant, engulfing the passenger car in flames, and creating a scene more like a plane crash than a train wreck.

Stunned officials Saturday described a picture of horror inside the com muter car - where all the dead were found - with rescue crews picking through melted metal and bodies so charred and dismembered that there were at first thought to be 12, rather than 11.

Officials indicated that the dead apparently included the engineer and two conductors from the Maryland commuter train and eight people believed to be mostly Washington-area youngsters returning home from a federal Job Corps site in Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

"The only thing I can pray is that those people that died, died instantly," Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening said Saturday, standing in the track bed beside the burned and twisted wreckage.

"Because not only is the car sheared in half but the metal is actually melted from the extreme heat. It had to be an absolute hell inside of there even for few seconds," Glendening said.

"It is a scene of just absolute devastation. . . . It's just terrible. It is even more tragic when you think of the fact that these are young people who were trying to make something of their life," he said. …

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