SUNOL (CBS SF) – Passengers who were on the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train that careened off the tracks after hitting debris from a mudslide Monday night described a frightening, chaotic scene
The accident happened at around 7:30 p.m. Monday night. Ace Train No. 10 was headed from San Jose to Stockton and traveling at about 35 mph when it plunged off the tracks about a mile west of Sunol in Alameda County.
214 people were on board the train.
According to officials, the train struck mudslide debris on the tracks that contained a tree. The first car of the train slid down an embankment and into Alameda Creek.
Passengers told KPIX 5 they were extremely scared when the train went off the rails, especially since it was dark out and they couldn’t see anything.
Once the train came to what passengers are describing as a jarring stop, nothing could be heard but screams.
“It was like eerie calm,” said passenger Tanner McKenzie. “It was quiet except for the screams for help. So I was trying to keep everyone around me calm.”
The conductor had been tossed from the train car and ended up in the water of Alameda Creek.
“People were crying for help and went to find the conductor,” remembered McKenzie. “I keep a flash light in my bag and he had flown out the front window when it hit and blew straight out. He had a bad head injury.”
The Alameda County Fire Department posted photos and video via its Twitter account that showed the front car partially submerged in the creek.
“We started getting people out one by one. Walked out the front door of the second car which had separated and the first car was on its side angled down the embankment. The front end of the first car was in the water, and just trying to get people out,” said McKenzie.
We all looked around and asked each other ‘Are you okay? Yeah, I’m okay,’ and ‘Let’s see what’s going on,'” said passenger Rich Howell.
The passengers were able to give initial assistance the injured passengers before first responders arrived.
“We got everyone out of the number one car. There were a couple folks who were injured so we had to just position them on the ground,” said Howell. “And a couple of people who were more severely injured, we had to keep them in place inside the car and just waited there for the paramedics to help and remove them safely.”
Nine people were sent to various hospitals for treatment. Four sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries, while the other five had with minor injuries.
Of those nine people hurt, three were taken to Washington Hospital in Fremont. Those three people were all treated for minor injuries. Two of them have been released, but one remains in the hospital in good condition.
Passengers who were not hurt in this accident were able to make it home by 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. Veteran first responders were saying it’s a minor miracle that no one was killed.
Crews working to clear the derailment said they hoped to have the train back on the tracks and out of the area by 4 p.m. Tuesday.