A deadly Amtrak crash involving the famous train “the City of New Orleans” claimed the lives of two men Thursday evening near Jackson, Mississippi. None of the 140 passengers were seriously injured.
Train crash kills two
According to Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart, James Creel of Lake, Mississippi, and Scott Hartsock of Florida were killed Thursday just outside the Jackson Motor Speedway after train #58 on the City of New Orleans line, famous in song and story, plowed into a truck being towed off the tracks.
Amtrack issued a statement confirming the crash, noting “a vehicle obstructing the tracks came into contact with the train around 5:30 p.m. The train was headed from New Orleans to Memphis.”
A big contributor to the crash, Byram Police Chief David Errington suggests, is the fact “the railroad crossing in the area does not warn drivers of oncoming traffic.” He explains that this “particular railroad section does not have crossing arms or flashing lights.” Actually. it appears the crossing has them but they don’t work as expected.
The vehicle which was struck is described as an “18-wheeler tow truck” which was “pulling another tractor-trailer across the railroad tracks to enter the Jackson Motor Speedway area and did not see the train approaching.” Things were over pretty much instantly. The “train struck the passenger side of the wrecker, pulling the broken down tractor-trailer.” A few more feet and they would have made it.
As noted in the statement released by Amtrak, “There were no injuries to the 142 passengers or crew members on board. Police are cooperating with local law enforcement to investigate the incident.”
There isn’t a whole lot about the crash to investigate though. Unconfirmed reports note that the crossing in question is privately owned, therefore not under the jurisdiction of Amtrak for maintenance and signage.
Passengers left in the dark
The passengers are really happy that none were injured more than shaking up or bruising and they feel terrible about the men who were killed. The thing that they aren’t happy about is the lack of information they’re getting from officials. Nobody has any answers about what to do next.
Before the crash, Erica Gibbs was on the train with her three children. They were returning home after a New Orleans vacation. “All of a sudden the brakes started screeching and then it looked like we were going to hit the car in front of us.” They could see that much through the window. Then, “you felt like a jolt like I could tell we hit something…and then it was smoke.”
Ms. Gibbs relates that the passengers “waited on the train for hours” after the crash, “before they were bussed back to Jackson.” Once there, they had no place to stay.
Amtrak eventually came through and “booked hotel rooms for people.” She didn’t get her kids to bed until after 1:30 in the morning. This will be one vacation the family will never forget.
The crash wasn’t part of the planned excursion but according to Amtrack, the ride is usually an exciting one anyway. As their website proclaims, your “journey on the City of New Orleans takes you 900 miles through the heart of our nation’s musical heritage — from Chicago with its world-class Chicago Symphony Orchestra and still vibrant electric blues scene, to Beale Street in Memphis.”
“Then, travel the history-laden musical crossroads of Mississippi to New Orleans — the birthplace of jazz. You’ll be riding in the shadows of giants of American music like Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley.”