Candiotti: 'Spectacular' scene at Amtrak crash
SEVILLE, Florida (CNN) -- An Amtrak passenger train -- containing 453 people and about 200 automobiles -- careened off its tracks in northeast Florida on Thursday, causing six deaths and scores of injuries.
Correspondent Susan Candiotti talked with survivors and officials and visited the wreck site, before discussing the accident with CNN's Aaron Brown.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI: There are a lot of ways to describe what happened here. One of them is spectacular -- the train cars of Amtrak's famous Auto Train, flying off the tracks, careening off the tracks for an unknown reason.
This train regularly carries passengers and vehicles from a city near Orlando to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Tonight something went dreadfully wrong -- we don't know exactly what.
Nearly all of the cars -- 35 of the train's 41 cars -- slid off the tracks. One witness reports hearing the train's brakes screeching for about 30 seconds before the train derailed.
There were 425 passengers aboard these cars, 28 crew members. We can report at least six people dead Thursday night, and not long ago we saw one victim being removed from the scene. We don't know if that was an additional victim to the six already reported dead.
More than 153 people were injured, at least 20 critically. Many of those have been airlifted to area hospitals, and others who were uninjured or slightly injured were taken to other hospitals as well as to a local high school around here.
I stopped [at the Crescent City Junior/Senior High School] ... and ran into a man by the name of Ken Clark, an elderly gentleman from Wayne, Pennsylvania, who was here vacationing with his wife. He was wrapped up in a blanket.
He described what happened to me this way: "I felt like the world was coming to an end."
He told me this as he was being loaded onto a school bus to be taken to an area hotel.
Let me set the scene for what apparently happened: About one hour after this train left the station near Orlando, Florida, people were settling in for a nice overnight trip to Washington, D.C., when they don't know what went wrong.
From what we understand, the engineer reported no trouble before this accident happened.
The National Transportation Safety Board has assembled what they call a "go team," which will arrive either late tonight or early tomorrow [to] begin investigating what happened.
Of course, they will be out here for quite some time as they try to piece through this wreckage and find any other people that they can get out.
Seventy-five people who were trapped inside one of the cars earlier were freed without injury.
Over my shoulder, you can see that white car -- that contains one of the vehicle railcars that was part of this train. ... This is as close as we can get to the wreck.
AARON BROWN: Locate yourself for me again. You're about an hour to the north of Orlando?
CANDIOTTI: I think the easiest way to describe it is that we're about 25 miles west of Daytona Beach. And yes, we're roughly about an hour, an hour-and-a-half drive from Orlando.
BROWN: And how far are you from a city?
CANDIOTTI: There is a very small city just about 5 miles down the road from here called Crescent City. We are about 20 miles to the next biggest town, where the closest hospital is located.
But the problem is that [that hospital] isn't a trauma center. So those who were critically injured had to be airlifted to Gainesville, Florida, which is a little farther away from here, as well as Jacksonville, Florida, which is a couple hours at least away from the Orlando area.
BROWN: We believe there are at least 6 dead and 153 injured, is that correct?
CANDIOTTI: At the very least, those are the numbers we are getting from authorities here. Of course, those numbers could fluctuate.
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