Amtrak Train Derails in Florida

An Amtrak train carrying hundreds of passengers derailed on a popular vacation route in northern Florida this afternoon, killing at least six people, authorities said.

State police and National Transportation Safety Board officials confirmed six people were dead, and hundreds were injured, and that no motor vehicles were involved in the derailment.

Dozens of patients were being rushed to the Putnam County Medical Center, and many were being taken by the busload other hospitals farther away. Police estimated that half the 425 passengers and 28 crew members on board suffered injuries in the wreck.

The northbound Auto-Train, Amtrak train #52, was en route from Sanford, Fla., to Lorton, Va., when it ran off the rails at 5:08 pm in Seville, Fla., 44 miles north of Sanford in Volusia County, Amtrak said in a statement.

"We just started hurtling and left the track and the next thing we knew, we were bouncing off the walls," Bernie Morgan, a passenger traveling from Naples, Fla., to Doylestown, Pa., told The Associated Press.

Amtrak said the train left Sanford at 4:30 p.m. Authorities refused to speculate on the cause of the derailment. A spokeswoman for the CSX Corporation, which owns and operates the tracks, told The Florida Times-Union they had been inspected eight hours earlier, and showed no signs of damage.

Amtrak said 13 passenger cars of the 41-car train derailed. Seven of the cars were lying on their sides, and all 13 sprawled in a zig-zag across the tracks.

At one point, 75 passengers were trapped. As of early tonight, Florida Highway Patrol officials said 65 passengers were still aboard the train.

Anxious fire rescue crews and volunteers swarmed over the cars, using ladders to haul the injured out of the windows.

Some passengers were seen walking away from the train. Rescue units and trauma helicopters from several counties were called to the scene. Amtrak said it mobilized many of its employees to help with rescue efforts. The Red Cross was sending teams, and was ready to set up a shelter.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sent his thoughts and prayers to those injured in the mishap and pledged to provide as much assistance as possible to local officials and derailment victims.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to those involved in today's tragic Amtrak train derailment in Putnam County south of Crescent City," Gov. Bush said in a statement. "In response to this accident, our state Emergency Operations Center has helped to coordinate the response of firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, law enforcement officers and public information officials from state agencies and neighboring counties."

Train Favored By Families

The Putnam County Medical Center — the only hospital in the county — has been placed on its highest state of alert, and officials there said early on they were preparing for hundreds of patients. Emergency room doctors from neighboring counties were on the way to assist, and a triage center was set up at Crescent City High School.

Auto-Trains like Amtrak train #52 carry automobiles and passengers between Sanford and Lorton, Va. and are favored by families traveling between Florida theme parks and beaches and Washington landmarks. The train had two engines, 16 passenger cars and 23 auto racks. Crescent City is 61 miles north of Orlando.

Amtrak said people who were concerned that a relative might have been on board could call (800) 523-9101. ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando and ABCNEWS' Charles Herman in Miami contributed to this report.

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