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Arizona rail link reopens after derailment

The bridge August 10, 1997
Web posted at: 11:16 p.m. EDT (0316 GMT)

KINGMAN, Arizona (CNN) -- A section of railroad track where an Amtrak train derailed in northern Arizona was reopened on Sunday, as 15 people injured in the Saturday accident were recovering from their injuries in area hospitals.

At a press conference Sunday evening, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall said the train's engineer and assistant engineer both saw a dip in the track as the train approached a bridge about 13 miles east of Kingman.

Seven passenger cars left the tracks when the engines hit the buckled track at a speed of 90 miles per hour.


The testimony from the engineers has led the NTSB to conclude that the bridge had been damaged before the engines hit the buckled rail, Hall said. Officials believe the bridge was damaged when the gully beneath it flooded.

Investigators are not yet sure whether the engineers hit the brakes after impact or if the brakes were automatically activated when the cars separated, Hall said.

Rail traffic had been at a standstill since the accident. But on Sunday, an adjacent westbound track was reopened, allowing freight and passenger trains to move again along the important east-west route between Chicago and Los Angeles.

The owner of the railroad track where the accident happened, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, has decided to reduce train speeds in the area when flash flood warnings are in effect. Freight trains will only be able to travel 40 miles per hour (64 kmh); passenger trains, 20 miles per hour (32 kmh).

Officials had said earlier that 350 people were on board the Amtrak train at the time of the accident. Sunday, they revised that number to 309. Of those 116 were hurt, most with minor injuries. Fifteen people remained hospitalized, including a man in critical but stable condition with back injuries.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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