Amtrak passenger: 'I feel so sorry for them'

June 27, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The California Zephyr train collided with a semi-truck and killed six people Friday after departing from Chicago. It was headed to San Francisco at the time of accident near Trinity, Nevada, which is approximately 70 miles east of Reno. The truck bursts into flames upon impact.

Amtrak says at least five passengers are still unaccounted for Monday. Bill Mooney from suburban Northfield was one of the 200 passengers on the train when he felt the impact.

"I was reading, and I heard this bang, and I looked out my window, and I saw flames and smoke flying past," Mooney told ABC7 Chicago.

Mooney also shared photos he took at the crash scene that show the fire and what was left of the charred semi-truck. Passengers could also be seen stranded in the desert until help came.

"Once the train stopped, and I was OK and my friends were OK, I kind of relaxed, and then they came through and ordered us to evacuate," Mooney said.

Investigators say the semi-truck was part of a three-truck convoy. Two drivers were able to stop in time, but they watched helplessly as the other driver smashed through the crossing gates and into the train full of people.

The truck's driver is among the six confirmed dead. Toxicology test results on that driver are due in a few days.

"It's very sad. I feel so sorry for them and grateful I wasn't one of them," said Mooney.

The trucking company involved has a history of citations. Federal documents indicate a spotty record for John Davis Trucking, now under scrutiny in the deadly crash. The company, based in Battle Mountain, Nevada has been cited previously for crashes, unsafe driving, and operating a truck with tires so bald that vehicles were taken off the road.

Investigators say the driver working for John Davis Trucking drove a truck through a Nevada desert crossing gate and slammed into two double-decker Amtrak train cars.

Mooney was five cars away from the point of impact. The 81-year-old was on an 11-day trip to see places like Yellowstone National Park.

Mooney was back in Northfield Monday with quite a story to tell.

"Very grateful. It's good to be home," he said.

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