RUSSELL, Iowa — Amtrak's California Zephyr slammed into a railroad crane laying new track Monday, knocking both locomotives and 11 cars of the passenger train off the tracks and injuring at least 126 people, officials said.
"Everything was going smoothly and all of the sudden I heard the screeching of the brakes and everyone went flying," said passenger Mildred Faddis of Oakland, Calif. "There was debris everywhere. It was terrible."
Amtrak spokeswoman Debbie Marciniak said the railroad's 16-car No. 6 train was headed east toward Chicago shortly after 11:30 a.m. when it hit a crane being used by Burlington Northern, which operates the tracks across southern Iowa.
A preliminary investigation determined that a work crew moved the crane and another car onto the railroad siding to allow the Amtrak train to pass, but an improperly aligned switch put the train on the siding, causing the collision, a spokesman for Burlington Northern said.