TANGIPAHOA PARISH (WGNO) – Passengers recount what happened as an 18-wheeler collided with an Amtrak train carrying close to 200 people in Tangipahoa Parish. One person remains hospitalized with serious injuries.
“I was playing PlayStation 3, talking on the phone, then I said, ‘Man we just hit something’ and the whole time I thought we were going to flip over. You just hear boom,” exclaims passenger Travis Sentell.
Sentell is one of 193 passengers relieved to make it to New Orleans, even if he was hours late and by bus.
Roughly 70 miles North of the city the Amtrak train he was on nearly derailed after colliding with an 18-wheeler just South of Amite. Authorities believe the driver of the 18-wheeler failed to yield and stop at the crossing.
“This particular crossing does not have the cross arms that come down, however you asked the question of what do you need to do? Obey the traffic signs, stop, look in both directions before you go across the track,” says Fire Chief Bruce Cutrer with Tangipahoa Fire District #1, “This Amtrak is allowed to come through here at 79 miles per hour.”
It took the Amtrak train roughly a quarter of a mile to stop after the collision. Authorities believe the truck was nearly half way over the tracks when the train split it in half, tearing apart the cab from the trailer which ended up creating a gash on the side of the train where crew members often lounge.
Fire Chief Cutrer says nine passengers and four crew members were treated on scene for minor injuries. He says the driver of the truck was ejected and sent to the hospital with serious injuries.
It was tense moments for passengers and parents who anxiously waited for loved ones to arrive downtown, and tourists who got a bit more action they bargained for.
Passenger Jamie Hubbard of Houma recounts, “While I was walking down the train, I thought the engine exploded or something. I thought oh God there’s going to be a like fires!”
Passenger Mags Quirke from London says, “They thought that the train had come off the tracks. It hadn’t in the end, but we all thought that it was something like that.”