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3 PEOPLE KILLED, 55 INJURED AS AMTRAK TRAIN HITS TRUCK

SHARE 3 PEOPLE KILLED, 55 INJURED AS AMTRAK TRAIN HITS TRUCK

Passengers said it felt "like a nightmare" when a collision between a truck hauling chocolate syrup and the Amtrak train in which they were riding killed three people and injured 55.

John Bruno, a passenger from Seattle, said Tuesday's crash "felt like somebody had dead-stopped us. Then we hit three times. . . . My head was clobbered each time.""I was collecting tickets and then all hell broke loose," said conductor Gary Burke. "I wound up flying into the next car."

California Highway Patrol spokesman Bob Whitmire said Tuesday that investigators were trying to determine the accident's cause, including the dense fog which was blamed for a couple of multicar pileups in the region.

The crash killed the truck driver and two train crewmen. Amtrak spokesman Arthur Lloyd said the truck driver seemed to be responsible for the crash. "Evidently the vehicle ignored the lights and went right in front of train," Lloyd said.

But Gov. George Deukmejian, who toured the scene, said the three people killed in the crash may be the only ones who really know what happened.

The 70-mph speed of the train was within the limit for the area, according to federal transportation officials.

People aboard the train, which carried at least 142 including five Amtrak crew members, described nightmarish conditions during the crash and its aftermath. No one said they had seen the truck or warning devices at the crossing before the collision.

"It was like a nightmare," said passenger Phyllis Ferguson of Stockton. "I was sitting there reading the paper and then crash, fire. I was thrown to the floor. Seats crumpled ahead and behind me. Everybody was screaming and yelling. One woman was yelling for her baby."

The San Joaquin County coroner's office identified the dead truck driver as David Haskell, 47, of Pomona. The other two victims were identified only as the train's engineer and fireman, pending notification of relatives.

Of the 55 injured, 24 seriously injured people were taken by ambulance to hospitals, Whitmire said.