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Authorities In ‘Recovery Mode’ After Fatal Amtrak Wreck

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Firefighters look at the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger car Friday June 24, 2011 near US 95 north of Fallon, Nev. The west-bound train was struck by a semi-truck and burst into flames. The driver and a passenger of the truck were killed. Injured train passengers were taken to local hospitals but officials must let the wreck cool off before they continue their search. (AP Photo/Liz Margerum)

Firefighters look at the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger car Friday June 24, 2011 near US 95 north of Fallon, Nev. The west-bound train was struck by a semi-truck and burst into flames. The driver and a passenger of the truck were killed. Injured train passengers were taken to local hospitals but officials must let the wreck cool off before they continue their search. (AP Photo/Liz Margerum)

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LOVELOCK, Nev. (STMW) – An Amtrak crew member on a train from Chicago and a trucker who allegedly drove around downed crossing gates were both killed when the truck and train collided Friday morning 75 miles east of Reno, Nev., according to the Nevada Highway Patrol.

At least 20 were injured.

“So far we’ve confirmed two are dead, and we are in recovery mode today…there could be more (fatalities),’’ said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Lopez Saturday morning.

A spokesperson for the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s office referred inquiries to the Highway Patrol.

The train wreck occurred at 11:24 a.m. Pacific Time when a northbound semi truck reportedly drove around downed crossing gates and hit the 4th car of the westbound train at U.S. 95 four to five miles south of Interstate 80, about 75 miles east of Reno, Nev., said Lopez. The lights on the gates were operating at the time.

The truck struck the side of the train at a public railroad crossing in the town of Lovelock, according an Amtrak statement.

Two cars of the California-bound train burst into flames but the train did not tip over, Lopez said.

Lopez said the trucker, a white male, was pronounced dead on the scene shortly after the wreck. Another person who was on board the train was also killed. That person was an Amtrak crew member, according to the statement.

About 20 people were injured and hospitalized immediately after the crash, and later several others who were initially taken to a local elementary school were transported to local hospitals to be checked out as a precaution.

The rest of the passengers were taken to local schools for shelter and food while arrangements were made to continue to their travel west on chartered motor coaches, the statement said.

The train had 204 passengers and 14 crew aboard, according to the statement.

Lopez said the NTSB and other authorities are going to be entering the train Saturday morning to investigate the crash following a morning meeting.

Lopez said it is protocol in this type of wreck for the person operating the train to be tested for drugs and alcohol in their system but did not know if that person had time to sound a horn before the collision.

The train involved, a California Zephyr, operates daily between Chicago and Emeryville, Calif. and it left Chicago on Wednesday, according to the statement.

It was operating on tracks owed and maintained by Union Pacific Railroad.

It was not immediately known how fast the truck and the train were traveling.

Anyone with questions about their friends or family members who were on board should contact (800) 523-9101.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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