Amtrak train hits truck on Fla. tracks 70 injured


INTERCESSION CITY, Fla. -- An oversized tractor-trailer stuck across the tracks. An Amtrak passenger train rocketing around a long, sweeping curve.

The result: Amtrak's Silver Meteor, carrying 103 passengers and eight crew members, struck a truck carrying an 82-ton generator about 12:30 p.m. yesterday as state troopers frantically tried to flag down the train.

About 70 people were hurt, most with cuts and bruises. The first four cars of the eight-car train, bound from Tampa, Fla., to New York, were derailed.

The impact crumbled the truck, trailer and generator and pushed them 150 yards down the tracks in a wooded, rural area about 10 miles southwest of Kissimmee in central Florida. The driver of the truck jumped from the cab as the train hit. He was in critical condition last night.

"It was like a slow-motion bomb going off," said Mark Robinson, a deliveryman who saw the crash. "The train cars started twisting and turning off the track."

The train's engineer, James Thomas, 46, said he never had a chance. Amtrak officials said Mr. Thomas needed at least a mile to stop the train, which was traveling at the authorized speed of 78 miles an hour. He had 30 yards.

"All of a sudden the train was there," said Chris Gent, a spokesman for the Kissimmee Utilities Authority, which owned the generator. "Twenty of us were up on the track. I just yelled, and everybody ran and took cover."

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