A truck driver tried to stop his big rig before it slammed into the side of an Amtrak passenger car in the Nevada desert, killing him and at least one person on the train and injuring 20 others in the fiery crash, authorities said Saturday.
Investigators at the scene about 70 miles east of Reno found skid marks at the railroad crossing on U.S. 95, indicating the driver tried to stop his semitrailer before Friday's crash, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Lopez said.
"They have measured the skid marks, and it should be able to tell us what speed he was driving at the time of the accident," Lopez said.
He said the deaths of the truck driver and an Amtrak conductor have been confirmed, but it is possible more bodies could be found in the wreckage, with two Amtrak cars gutted by fire after the crash.
Amtrak's California Zephyr was en route from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif., with 200 passengers and 14 crew members when the accident occurred about 300 miles east of its destination.
Sixteen National Transportation Safety Board investigators took over at the scene Saturday and are expected to take up to a year to pinpoint the cause of the crash.
Lopez said the investigation would focus on the truck driver, whose rig crashed through a crossing gate before plowing into the Amtrak car. A witness told authorities that the crossing gates and warning signals were working at the time.
"That's what everybody wants to know. Why did the truck collide with the train?" Lopez said. "Unfortunately, since he was pronounced dead, he's the only one who can tell us that prior to the investigation."
Among other things, the investigation will focus on the driver's driving and medical records, as well as autopsy results that will determine whether the driver had consumed any drugs before the collision.