Amtrak train derails in Jackson County

Train collides with semi-truck in Leoni Township

LEONI TOWNSHIP, Mich. - An Amtrak train derailed Wednesday morning in Jackson County.

The Wolverine Train 351 was headed to Chicago from Pontiac with 68 people onboard when it slammed into a semi-truck that was on the tracks in Leoni Township, near Michigan Avenue and Portage Road.

In a statement, Amtrak said the collision caused the train's engine to tip on its side and two railcars to jump the tracks. The truck was carrying equipment for local oil production. Police said it appears the truck got stuck on the high crown of the crossing.

The driver tried to move it when he realized the train was coming, but could not free the flatbed trailer hauling heavy equipment from being high-centered.  The Amtrak train was going 60 miles an hour.  It may take days to decide of the driver gets a ticket.  Local, state and federal NTSB officials are involved in the investigation. 

IMAGES: Amtrak train derails in Jackson County

"It was pretty scary. At first it was kind of like a wobble, then a screech and then we just kind of flipped over," said passenger Mary Connolly.

She was riding the train to Kalamazoo.

"I kind of crawled over the seats and everyone else kind of had to do the same thing," she said.

Michael Robinson was in the car behind the ones that derailed.

"It was coming towards our car and it almost derailed our car as well. As soon as that happened, everyone was totally in shock and praying for their lives at that moment," he said. "I thought my life was flashing before my eyes. I just jumped up and was making sure everyone was stable."

The train's route goes straight through the community of Leoni Township. Casie Allen witnessed the crash and several people ran to help.

"I seen it snap and I saw the other car roll. I saw the fuel fly everywhere. That's all I could smell was the fuel," she said.

She said people were trying to use hammers to break the windows and get passengers out.

Omar Dingman live right next to the tracks and got scared when they saw the wreckage right outside their window.

"I looked out the back window and saw that car across the tracks, I knew it had derailed. I hollered and called 911," Omar said.

More than a dozen people had minor injures. Many were treated at Allegiance Medical Center in Jackson. Most had minor leg and arm injuries. 

Carolyn Dowdell's daughter, 20-year-old Tiarra Dowdell, hurt her ankle, arm and neck.

"I heard everyone screaming and everyone was in a panic. I looked up and saw people on the floor. I was on the floor and then my shoulder was hurting," Tiarra Dowdell said. "I sprung my ankle trying to get up. It was just a really bad experience."

The truck driver has been treated and released.

Amtrak announced Wednesday night that it plans to operate all Wolverine Service trains between Pontiac/Detroit and Chicago on Thursday, with the exception of alternate transportation for a portion of one westbound trip. Train 351 to Chicago will originate in Jackson, not Pontiac. Alternative transportation will be provided between Pontiac/Detroit and Jackson.

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