CIMARRON — An Amtrak Southwest Chief passenger train carrying more than 140 people derailed shortly after midnight Monday about 2 1/2 miles west of Cimarron, injuring about 20 people.
According to an Amtrak statement on the accident, there were approximately 128 passengers and 14 crew members on board. Local emergency responders were on the scene and an investigation is ongoing.
Rex Beemer, Gray County assistant emergency manager and rural fire coordinator, said the accident occurred at about 12:04 a.m. when the last several cars of the train tipped on their side.
Beemer said emergency responders are trying to determine the exact number of injured, but confirmed that one person was flown out by helicopter and others were taken to hospitals in Dodge City and Garden City. He said all of the passengers and crew were accounted for.
Michael Gordian, chief financial officer at Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City, said 11 or 12 passengers had been brought to the hospital with injuries. He said none of the injuries were life threatening, and he was expecting possibly another six to seven injured passengers might be brought to the hospital.
A spokesperson with St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City said the hospital also was treating some of the injured passengers, but did not say how many or the extent of their injuries.
Amtrak's statement reported the number of people taken to area hospitals at about 20.
Beemer said emergency responders were able to help passengers exit the cars that were flipped on their sides through the windows of the cars. He said passengers who were not injured were taken to the 4-H building in Cimarron. He said the local Red Cross was assisting passengers there.
The cause of the accident remains under investigation, and Beemer said emergency responders were waiting for Amtrak officials to show up to assess the scene.
“This is a very dynamic situation that keeps changing,” Beemer said.
Jim Fillwalk, of Trinidad, Colo., was on the train traveling from Colorado to Iowa. He said he was awake when the accident happened, and that it happened quickly.
“For one-half second, I was in the air. You could feel it. It was like we were hydroplaning on black ice,” he said.
Fillwalk said when the train came to a stop, he was right by a window and was able to exit the train easily. He said he was the first person out of the train.
“I was praying earlier in the night. I was pretty confident God was going to take care of us,” he said.
Amtrak officials said passengers at the shelter in Cimarron will be provided with alternate transportation to their final destination, and added that Amtrak is working with BNSF Railroad to investigate the cause of the incident.
Amtrak officials also said Southwest Chief Train 3, operating from Chicago to Los Angeles, will detour from Newton to Albuquerque, N.M., for trains originating Sunday and Monday, and that alternate transportation was being arranged.
Emergency responders from Cimarron, Copeland, Dodge City, Garden City, Ingalls, Montezuma, the Gray County Sheriff’s Office, and the Kansas Highway Patrol responded to the accident.
U.S. Highway 50 between Garden City and Cimarron was temporarily closed due to the derailment, but was reopened shortly after 2 a.m.