Terrifying moment captured as Amtrak train collided with tractor-trailer

Posted at 3:18 PM, Mar 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-10 00:47:25-04

HALIFAX COUNTY, North Carolina — An Amtrak train collided with a truck on the tracks near U.S. Highway 301 in Halifax County, North Carolina Monday afternoon. Eyewitness Leslie Cipriani was headed home to Roanoke Rapids when she saw police blocking traffic.  A tractor-trailer was stuck on the tracks, and Cipriani filmed the moment the train crashed into it.

"I saw a tractor trailer trying to make a right; he couldn’t do it," Cipriani said. "That’s when I heard the train coming. The crossing bar got caught on the truck. One person got out of the truck.”

The train was on its way from Charlotte to New York, Amtrak confirmed, and it was scheduled to make stops at the Ettrick and Staples Mill Amtrak stations in Henrico County on its way north.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol were escorting a large trailer over 160 feet in length that was carrying electrical wiring and supplies, police said.  When the truck attempted to make a turn onto 301, it took too long and had to back up, said Lt. Jeff Gordon.

Two cars derailed, none carrying passengers.

"There were 212 passengers and eight crew members on board and initial reports are that several passengers have been injured and taken to local medical facilities for treatment," Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds said. "At this time, none of the injuries have been reported as life-threatening. Local emergency responders are on the scene and an investigation is ongoing."

Preliminary reports by NCDOT were that 40 people were transported to the hospital. Twenty-five were taken to Halifax Memorial Hospital by bus and 15 passengers were taken to the Halifax hospital by ambulance.The extent of injuries among passengers is unknown at this point.

Cipriani said she felt safe inside her car, but she "has never seen anything like that before in my life.”

“I am very, very thankful," she said. "I’ve been praying since I got home."

"There was a massive jerk and we were kind of thrown forward a little bit, and the train came to a sudden stop," another passenger, Charlotte Story, told WRAL. "I couldn't tell you if it was trying to slow down or not. There was no whistle. It came completely out of the blue."

Theresa Mathis (PHOTO: Wayne Covil)

Amtrak passenger Theresa Mathis, of Wilson, North Carolina, boarded her train in Washington, D.C. after spending time with her injured son at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She disembarked in Ettrick at around 1:45 p.m. when passengers were informed there was a delay ahead.

“We were told there was a train delay ahead of us and we could off-board at the Petersburg train station,” Mathis said.

Covil later informed her of the seriousness that lay ahead in Halifax County.

“I’ve seen a couple of people get in taxi cabs and rental car,” Mathis said of fellow passengers who opted not to wait out the delay. She said she planned to stay on the train and attempt to continue her trip home.

Train service was suspended for any routes that traveled through southern Virginia, as cleanup commenced.

This is a developing story.