AP Exclusive: Deadliest Amtrak crash: Bump, whoosh, and fire
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) – In the dark of night, three travelers advanced toward tragedy.
Accompanied by her parents on her first train trip, 11-year-old Andrea Chancey couldn’t sleep on the Amtrak coach. Ken Ivory lounged nearby; he was only aboard the train because he had missed a flight. Miles away, Willie C. Odom steered a towboat as it pushed barges up a river that was getting foggier by the mile.
A bump. A whoosh. A ball of fire.
Suddenly, those three and more than 200 other people were caught up in what remains Amtrak’s deadliest accident, the derailment of the Los Angeles-to-Miami Sunset Limited in a south Alabama bayou in 1993. Forty-seven people died and more than 100 others were hurt.
Nearly twenty-five years later, the survivors remember that night vividly: “I smell the oil. I see the fire. I hear the screaming,” said Chancey, now 36, told The Associated Press in her first interview.
But others forgot the disaster as other tragedies occurred. The same will no doubt happen in the aftermath of a recent string of three Amtrak accidents that killed a total of six people and injured about 170 others in Washington, Virginia and South Carolina.
Yet for those who witnessed the horror of people drowning in rail cars at Big Bayou Canot, everything comes rushing back with every Amtrak disaster.