A Bay Area commuter train with over 200 people onboard derailed and crashed into a rain-filled creek on Monday night, injuring nine people. The Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train derailment was reported at around 7:30 p.m. near the 5500 block of Niles Canyon Road in Alameda County, California.
Officials say the ACE train derailment happened after recent rains produced a mudslide that covered the tracks with debris. It was initially reported that the train derailed after colliding with a fallen tree, but on Tuesday, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department told the media that the first car derailed and plunged into the creek after encountering a mudslide. The second car also derailed but was able to stay upright.
According to ACE safety coordinator Steve Walker, the ACE train derailment happened at a time when the train would have been going around 30 miles-per-hour. Investigators have not yet given an official word on how fast the train was going prior to the derailment.
When emergency responders arrived at the scene, they found the first car half-submerged in water. Those aboard the ACE No. 10 commuter train recalled a chaotic scene as first responders jumped into the running stream and broke windows in order to rescue roughly a dozen passengers in the first train car.
Of the nine people who sustained injuries in the ACE train derailment, four were hospitalized with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. The remaining five sustained minor injuries. Cases of head trauma and back injuries were common among the list of injuries reported at the scene. All of those injured in the ACE train derailment is expected to survive.
The commuter train, which had five cars, was filled with more than 200 people heading from San Jose to Stockton. According to ACE, the train had scheduled stops in Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, Vasco, Tracy, and Lathrop. ACE No. 10 was about to reach Pleasanton station when the derailment occurred.
A passenger who only provided his first name, George, was seated in the top seats of the first train car. When the ACE train derailment happened, he said he tried to hang onto anything he could as the train took a nose dive into the running creek. George and a number of others in the first car were forced to step over shattered glass and climb out to safety.
Another passenger, Rad Akhter, recalled two passengers that were hurt pretty badly. One of the victims, according to Akhter, was “just under the mudslide” uso fellow passengers were working to dig her out while the train “was hanging.”
Passenger Tanner McKenzie, who was in the second car, said the train derailed and slid for what seemed like a long time before it finally came to a stop. He told reporters that at the time, he thought the car would overturn at any moment.
McKenzie and other people aboard the ACE train were transported on buses to the Alameda County Fairgrounds where loved ones had been waiting for up to a couple of hours.
NTSB to Investigate ACE Train Derailment
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sent a team out to Alameda County to investigate the ACE train derailment. SF Gate has reported that the train’s engine was pushing the train rather than pulling it. At this time, it is unclear whether the ACE staffers were in the front or the back of the train.
Emergency crews arrived on Tuesday to help clear the wreckage were blown away by the devastation of the ACE train derailment. Some compared the wreckage to something you would see in a Hollywood movie.
“It’s just unbelievable you think of the sheer power of a train once it derails, said Seargent J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. “A train doesn’t stop like a car — it keeps going, pushing into the creek. Must have been terrifying for everyone.”
Union Pacific said in a statement that it is hoping to have the wrecked ACE train cleared by about 4:00 p.m. local time. As for ACE, the commuter railway will not be in service Tuesday. ACE has not yet said when services will resume, though it will be providing passengers with some kind of alternative.