BRENTWOOD, Calif. -- Dozens of people were injured Friday evening when an Amtrak passenger train collided with a farm truck at a rural crossing east of the city, an Amtrak spokeswoman said.
The southbound Amtrak San Joaquin train No. 718, with 204 passengers aboard, departed from Oakland at 5:50 p.m. and was due in Bakersfield at 11:56 p.m., spokeswoman Vernae Graham said.
Around 7:23 p.m., the train crossed paths with a truck hauling corn near the intersection of Orwood and Bixler roads. The truck's driver and passenger were not injured, Graham said.
At least 39 passengers on board the train suffered "minor to moderate" injuries, according to East Contra Costa Fire District Chief Hugh Henderson. More than 100 emergency personnel responded, including air ambulance units that were later determined unnecessary.
Henderson said 18 victims were transported to Sutter-Delta Memorial Hospital in Antioch, 11 to Kaiser Permanente Deer Valley, and 10 to John Muir Hospital in Concord.
The train did not derail in the collision, and emergency workers moved it away from the crash site to allow easier access to the passengers that were told to remain on board for up to two hours after the collision, according to one passenger.
CHP dispatcher Ralph Caggiano said the truck was crossing the railway when the collision occurred. The crossing is not protected by gates or warning lights. A track inspector was summoned to check the condition of the railway.
The Amtrak San Joaquin operates on track owned by BNSF Railway Co. The line where the crash occurred is double-tracked, allowing trains to operate in more than one direction. A freight train in the vicinity was stopped before it reached the crash scene, the CHP said.
Two buses were dispatched to nearby Orwood Resort to shuttle passengers from the accident scene to their destinations, Graham said. Northbound train No. 717 was held in Stockton until after the accident was cleared.
The train was running in "push-mode," with the locomotive shoving the passenger cars from the rear. Passenger trains are permitted to run at speeds up to 79 mph in the area of Friday's crash. One passenger, who did not want to be identified, estimated the train was traveling about 70 mph at impact, then came to a slow stop about a quarter to a half mile east.
Passengers on the train described the sequence of events very similarly.
"When it hit, you felt a jerk and then you just started looking around to see if everyone was OK," said Halim Gentry, of Stockton. "I wanted to get off the train at first, but then they told us to stay on."
Kay Byett, from Forestville, said stunned passengers sat in silence for two hours afterward and were given no information about what was happening. When some of them finally ventured outside to find out what was going on, they were told to go back to their seats, Byett said.
Another passenger, 25-year-old Alejandro Santos, of Madera, said he had just fallen asleep when he was jolted awake by the crash. "I was freaked out a little bit," he said, "a lot, actually."
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