A string of four Amtrak railroad engines slammed into a coal-hauling freight train today near Chase, seriously injuring two crewmen, Baltimore County police reported.
The men were flown to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore, where they were in serious but stable condition, said Butch Jones, a spokesman at Shock-Trauma.
The accident in eastern Baltimore County occurred at almost the same place where 16 people were killed and 176 injured in a train wreck in January 1987.
"I can't believe this can happen again," said Cathi Fischer, who lives about 100 yards from the accident scene on Twin River Beach Road.
"There is something seriously wrong with that track," she said. Her husband, Gary, was awakened about 3:10 a.m. by a loud bang and screeching and he and his sister-in-law, Peggy Ferguson, rushed onto the tracks from the Fischer home and helped the two Amtrak crewmen who had jumped from the train prior to the crash.
All three Chase residents said they helped rescue injured in the 1987 accident. Cathi Fischer said "another wreck, another wreck."
The northbound Amtrak train, which consisted of four engines, struck the southbound Conrail train of at least 100 cars loaded with coal. The Conrail train was struck at about midpoint.
The collision blocked all three tracks that link Washington with Baltimore and points north -- Wilmington, Del., New York City, Boston and New Haven, Conn., an Amtrak spokeswoman said. She said workers would need at least three hours to clear the tracks and Amtrak bused its passengers between Baltimore and Wilmington.
At least 5,000 passengers northbound from Baltimore were affected, said Robert Brooks, an Amtrak safety engineer. Both charter and Mass Transit Administration buses were brought in to ferry the passengers to Wilmington.
Morning rush-hour train traffic between Baltimore and Washington apparently was not disrupted. Commuter trains from Baltimore to Washington leave both Pennsylvania Station on Charles Street and Camden Station near the site of the new baseball stadium.
Amtrak officials were not available to say what passengers in Washington were going to do if they were bound for stops north of Baltimore.
The two injured Amtrak crewmen were pulling several empty passenger cars when the collision occurred near near Twin River Beach Road in Chase.
Seconds before the two trains collided, the unidentified crewmen of the passenger train's engine jumped free and landed on the ground.
County police said the leading Amtrak engine reportedly derailed and a fire broke out when fuel oil spilled onto the ground. That fire, along with one that occurred in overhead electric wires, was quickly extinguished.
Not knowing how serious the collision was or how many people may have been injured, the county fire department sent eight ambulances to the scene in addition to nearly a dozen pieces of firefighting equipment and a hazardous materials unit.
Names of the injured men were not released pending notification of next of kin.