A Chicago-bound Amtrak train struck a demolition-crane boom and derailed Friday in southwest Nebraska.
None of the roughly 175 passengers aboard the California Zephyr out of San Francisco suffered serious injuries, authorities said. Area hospitals said they had been told of nine people with nonlife-threatening injuries.
The accident occurred at an old, uninhabited town site named Doane, about five miles west of Benkelman. The site is not far from Nebraska's borders with Kansas and Colorado.
The two locomotives and the first three of 10 passenger cars left the tracks about 8 a.m., said Amtrak's Marc Magliari.
Dundy County Commissioner Scott Hogeland of Benkelman said a private company is tearing down an old wood-and-tin grain elevator near the tracks.
“A crane was on the tracks at that moment and the train hit it,'' Hogeland said.
Kelly Hayward of nearby Parks, Neb., said the truck-mounted crane boom was hanging over the tracks. Hayward said the demolition crew didn't expect a train at that hour.
Hayward said the two engines toppled onto their left sides on the north side of the tracks. A gravel road parallels the north side of the tracks. The luggage car immediately behind the engines was tilted at a 45-degree angle. The derailed passenger cars remained upright on their wheels but were knocked off the tracks.
“It could have been a lot worse,'' Hayward said. “It was wild.''
Hayward helped passengers move their luggage from the luggage car to waiting trucks and other vehicles.
Passengers stood together on the north side of the gravel road as they awaited their ride to Dundy County Stratton High School in Benkelman.
“The passengers and their bags are gone now,'' Hayward said late Friday morning. “There's just the train laying there now.''
Hogeland and Hayward said they saw ambulances responding from Benkelman, Imperial, Indianola, McCook, Wauneta in Nebraska and from Wray, Colo., and St. Francis, Kan.
“And any number of sheriff and emergency vehicles,'' Hogeland said
Five passengers who suffered nonlife-threatening injuries were being treated at Dundy County Hospital in Benkelman, said Sandy Noffsinger, public information officer for the hospital.
She said two other injured passengers were sent to Chase County Community Hospital in Imperial, and two more passengers were sent to Wray Community District Hospital in northeast Colorado.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Video and photographs from the scene courtesy of Jason Frederick/Benkelman Post & News Chronicle. Video interviews shot by Jessica Cleveland//Benkelman Post & News Chronicle.