55 are hurt as Amtrak train derails People chased from yards by twisted cars.

December 18, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

PALATKA, Fla. -- Packed with holiday vacationers, the Amtrak Silver Meteor derailed as it curved into this town, injuring 55 people.

Horrified residents were chased through their back yards by twisted railroad cars thundering out of a cloud of dust.

Two homes were smashed, one of them sheared in half by the locomotive. Tons of out-of-control railroad cars came to rest just yards from a fuel depot.

The southbound train was carrying 151 passengers and a crew of 16 when all nine cars lurched off the tracks yesterday outside Palatka, about 50 miles south of Jacksonville.

Helicopters transported six of those injured to out-of-town hospitals; others were treated at Putnam Community Hospital here. None was seriously injured.

Some witnesses said the train was traveling unusually fast as it rounded a curve and headed into town.

Federal investigators were expected on the scene today. Authorities said last night that the line was closed until further notice.

Those aboard the Silver Meteor described an accident of fearful noise and uncontrolled force, one that tossed them across rows of seats. Many were headed to Disney World; others home for the holidays.

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