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Two killed, 20 injured as truck slams into Amtrak train in Nevada

A tractor-trailer rig plowed into an Amtrak passenger train Friday in rural Nevada, killing the truck driver and at least one person on the train and injuring about 20 others, authorities said.

Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman in Oakland, Calif., said most of the injuries were not life threatening. He said the California Zephyr carrying 204 passengers and 14 crew members was en route from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif., about 300 miles west of the crash site.

The big rig ran into the train at around 11:25 a.m. Friday at a crossing on U.S. 95 about 70 miles east of Reno, Trooper Dan Lopez of the Nevada Highway Patrol said. About 20 people aboard the train were taken to hospitals in Reno and Fallon, but he didn't know the extent of their injuries.

Dan Davis, spokesman for Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, said two people were in critical condition, four were in serious condition and three were in fair condition.

Amiee Fulk, spokeswoman for Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, said more than 10 people were treated in its emergency room, but she was unsure whether any had been admitted into the facility.

Lopez said the railroad crossing gates and warning lights were working. Witnesses told authorities that the truck didn't seem to attempt to stop at the crossing and crashed through the gate. The driver was the sole occupant of the semi, which was hauling two empty gravel trailers.

Jim Bickley, an Amtrak passenger, told Sacramento, Calif., television station KXTV that the tractor-trailer hit the fourth car on the train.

Two of the cars caught fire, Lopez said, and the fire was under control before 2 p.m.

Abel Ortiz, 42, a passenger from San Jose, Calif., said he was sleeping on the side of the car that was struck. He was returning from a trip to Richmond, Utah, with his family.

"As I looked up, I saw the train being ripped up. It created an opening in our car," Ortiz told the Lahontan Valley News & Fallon Eagle Standard newspaper in Fallon. "I saw the flames come over the windows of the side, like a quick flash of flames. Then smoked filled up everything. There was some screaming."

His 13-year-old son, Aaron, said the flames startled him.

"I thought I was sleeping but I said this isn't a dream," he said. "I was scared. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the scariest), this was an 11."

Amtrak said anyone with questions about the passengers can call 800-523-9101.

The National Transportation Safety Board said its investigators were on the way to the scene.

Among other things, investigators will look at the truck driver's driving and medical records, as well as autopsy results to determine whether any drugs were involved, said Peter Knudson, a safety board spokesman.

The accident shut down a section of U.S. 95 between Interstate 80 and Fallon.

The tracks cross the highway about three miles south of I-80 in the heart of the Forty-Mile Desert, which was considered one of the most difficult sections of the entire overland journey by California-bound, covered-wagon pioneers in the 19th century.

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