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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
Four killed in Florida train crash
Amtrak crash debris
The train crashed in wooded country in northern Florida
An Amtrak train loaded with tourists has hurtled off the tracks in northern Florida, killing at least four people on board and leaving many trapped in the wreckage for several hours.

Fourteen of the train's carriages left the rails, knocking down trees and toppling onto their sides.

The next thing we knew we were bouncing off the walls

Passenger Bernie Morgan
Survivors said they heard brakes screeching as the train flipped over.

The crash, which happened at 1700 EDT (2100 GMT) on Thursday, is a huge blow to Amtrak which is suffering severe financial hardships at the moment.

The train was bound for Washington DC with some 468 people on board, travelling in 16 passenger carriages with another 23 carriages transporting their cars.

It was barely an hour into its journey from Sanford, near Orlando, when it came off the rails near Crescent City.

Passengers were settling down for dinner, when everything turned upside down.

"We just started hurtling and left the tracks and the next thing we knew we were bouncing off the walls," said passenger Bernie Morgan.

"It just really started getting weird," said Jacki Rose, who had been holidaying with her family at Disney World in Orlando.

"I saw the sky in front of us, but there should have been a [train] car there."

Some passengers crawled through windows to escape, while firefighters used ladders and cut through mangled carriages to reach around 70 trapped inside.

Injured at the crash site
Dozens of people were injured in the crash
Initial reports said six people were killed, but that was later amended to four. About 20 people were airlifted from the scene with serious injuries, Amtrak officials said. Another 80 were also hurt.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates US transport accidents, sent a team to the scene.

Officials say the track had been inspected just hours before the crash.

Increased popularity

Many passengers were travelling with their cars, which are carried on special wagons behind the passenger coaches.

The Auto Train is popular with elderly people from the Washington area who spend the winter in Florida, and is also used by families visiting Disney World.

A BBC correspondent in Miami says there has also been an increase in train travel since 11 September because many people are afraid of flying.

An Amtrak train derailed in Iowa last year, killing one passenger and injuring 78.

That accident was blamed on a faulty stretch of track.

The BBC's Jacky Rowland reports from Washington
"The train was packed full of passengers when it jumped off the rails"
See also:

19 Apr 02 | Americas
In pictures: Florida train crash
09 Jul 99 | Americas
Train crashes into truck in Texas
17 Mar 99 | Americas
Fourteen dead in US train crash
18 Mar 01 | Americas
Struggle to reach US crash victims
11 Jun 01 | Business
US rail giant runs into trouble
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