Monday, July 11, 2011

Amtrak Downeaster hits truck in N. Berwick; 1 dead

NORTH BERWICK — An Amtrak Downeaster train with 109 passengers aboard slammed into a dump truck at 11:05 a.m. this morning, killing at least one person, according to an Amtrak spokesman.

The driver of the dump truck died in the collision, said Cliff Cole, a spokesman based in Amtrak's New York office. None of the passengers or crew aboard Downeaster 681 were injured, Cole said, but eyewitnesses saw several passengers being treated for cuts and bruises.

Justin Nelson, 24, of Los Angeles was traveling on the Downeaster with his wife as part of a cross-country rail tour when "we drove through what looked like a fireball."

"We were just sitting there, running along, when all of the sudden, the train started violently shaking," Nelson said. "Then there was fire all around us. There was lots of screaming."

The train came to a stop, and Nelson and the other passengers were escorted off the vehicle. The locomotive and at least one passenger car were still aflame at 12:10 p.m., according to eyewitnesses.

According to the Amtrak spokesman, the train left Boston at 9:05 a.m. and headed northbound to Portland, before the fiery collision occurred at the Route 4 crossing in this rural York County town of 4,300 people. The crash set off a mad dash of multiple agencies, who raced to the scene to put out fires and assess the damage.

Today's was the fourth train crash to occur in Maine this year, according to statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety. None of the other crashes had fatalities.

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