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Probe of Amtrak train-big rig crash could take days

October 2, 2012 | 11:16 am

It could take days to determine what caused a crash between a semi-truck and Amtrak train in Central California that injured dozens of people, authorities said Tuesday.

Because of the number of people involved -- 170 passengers were on the train -- it was "going to take a very long time" for investigators to complete their report, said California Highway Patrol Officer Jerry Pierce.

"We won't know probably for a least a couple more days," Pierce said. "We're hoping when everything is said and done we have an answer."

On Amtrak's San Joaquin Route — which runs between the San Francisco Bay Area and Bakersfield — the train had just left the Hanford station about 12:20 p.m. Monday when the big rig heading west on Kansas Avenue failed to stop at the crossing and plowed into its side, said CHP Officer Scott Jobinger.

The train, which had three passenger cars, went off the tracks and continued for about 600 feet.

"From what I can tell, the engine was at the rear end of the train and it derailed and was basically overturned," Jobinger said. "The other three cars are in various stages of leaning from 20 to 45 degrees."

Between 30 and 50 people suffered bumps, bruises and scrapes, and some stayed overnight in a hospital, Pierce said. An exact number of those injured was not available Tuesday because of the size of the crash, he said.

Investigators had been unable to pinpoint why the truck driver, Macario Medina, 32, of McFarland, crashed into the train's third car, Pierce said. Jobinger said there was no indication at the time that Medina was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Medina was taken to a Hanford hospital  with moderate injuries, Jobinger said.

Pierce said officials hoped to open the train tracks Tuesday morning but Kansas Avenue would remain closed until the evening.

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— Kate Mather and Corina Knoll

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