A popular Alaska tourist train company has suspended tours to investigate the derailment of one of its trains in which 19 people sustained minor injuries.
According to ABC News, the vintage train was making its 40-mile run on the White Pass & Yukon route from Skagway to Canada on Wednesday shortly after 3 pm, when two locomotives and four passenger cars derailed. The derailment took place in Alaska, just inside the Alaska-Canada border, near the White Pass summit.
A passenger on the train, Jerry Cable, reported hearing banging noises and feeling the train shake during the derailment. He and his wife were not injured, but were two cars behind one of the passenger cars that did jump the tracks and landed partially in the Skagway River. Another passenger, Joe Gilsinger, saw the car in front of his go off the track when the front of the car that he and his wife, Dana, were riding in went off the tracks also. “The car we were in came off the ground, and I was thinking, where the hell we are going?” he said.
Medical workers responded to the train derailment. USA Today reports that the railway’s president, John Finlayson, said that the injured were treated in the tourist town of Skagway. Initial reports had from 9 to 12 people injured in the accident, but as of today, the clinic that treated the injured passengers reported a total of 19. State Homeland Security official David Lee said that none of the injuries appeared to be serious. It was also initially reported that some passengers had been thrown from the train into the Skagway River, but it was later discovered that this was not true.
Railroad crews managed to get power to the train after the derailment and were able to take the train back to Skagway with the passengers aboard.
Finlayson told KTUU News that safety remained the railroad company’s number one priority. “Although we have not yet identified the specific cause of this incident, a thorough investigation has been undertaken, and all reasonable efforts will be made to ensure that safe operations remain the overriding focus of our workforce and management team,” the railroad’s president said in a statement regarding the train derailment.
The derailment was reported to the National Transportation Safety Board, but district chief Clint Johnson says that a full investigation of the derailment probably will not be conducted.
Although thankfully not as serious at the recent Moscow metro train disaster, the Alaska train accident is the second incident in less than two weeks in which passengers were injured in a train derailment.