Amtrak's most catastrophic train accidents

Posted at 12:10 PM, May 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-13 18:23:24-04

Riding the train is one of the safest ways to travel. Americans are far more likely to die in an auto accident compared to a train, according to Business Insider and the National Safety Council.

About 900 people die in train crashes each year. But most of them were in the way of the train — not on it.

While more than 30 million passengers travel safely on Amtrak each year, America’s interstate rail system has experienced several deadly accidents since it was founded in 1971:

May 12, 2015: At least six people die and more than 200 are injured after an Amtrak train from Washington to New York derails in Philadelphia.

June 24, 2011: Six people died and 11 were injured when a truck slid into a moving Amtrak passenger train near Reno, Nevada.

The cause of the crash was attributed to an inattentive truck driver and poor maintenance. Deaths were blamed on weak railcar side impact strength.

March 15, 1999: An Amtrak passenger train collided with a truck on the tracks and derails in Bourbonnais, Illinois. The collision killed 11 people and more than 100 were injured.

Feb. 16, 1996: A MARC commuter train missed a signal and collided with an Amtrak train in Silver Spring, Maryland, causing 11 deaths and more than 20 injuries.

Sept. 22, 1993: In the worst Amtrak accident in its history, a Los Angeles to Miami, Florida train derailed while crossing the CSXT Big Bayou Canot Bridge near Mobile, Alabama.

The bridge span was struck by a barge and had displaced. About 50 passengers died (1 in 5 on the train) and 100 were injured.

Jan. 4, 1987: A freight train missed a signal and was struck by a Washington to Boston bound Amtrak passenger train in Chase, Maryland.

Engineers on the freight train admitted to smoking marijuana on the job and one was sentenced to prison for manslaughter.

July 7, 1984: An Amtrak train traveling from Washington to Montreal fell into a ravine that flooded near Williston, Vermont. Five died and nearly 200 were injured.

June 10, 1971: A mechanical issue caused an Amtrak train from Chicago to New Orleans to derail in Salem, Illinois, killing 11 and injuring more than 150. It was the first major deadly accident in Amtrak history.


Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.