LOS ANGELES — At least six people were killed when a big rig truck hauling gravel slammed into the side of a California-bound passenger train in the high desert of Nevada, officials said late on Saturday.
Those killed included the truck driver and a train crew member, officials with the Amtrak train company and the local sheriff’s department said.
The death toll was not final, however, with National Transportation Safety Board Member (NTSB) Earl Weener telling reporters that some 24 people were still missing from the train’s 210-person manifest.
The delay in reaching a death toll was due in part to the severe fire damage to two of the the train cars, and fear that the damaged cars could topple.
“If you look at the amount of damage to the train, you can understand why we don’t know yet how many people died,” an NTSB official told The Los Angeles Times.
Rescuers did not feel safe combing through the cars until some 14 hours after the accident, which took place around 11:25 am (1825 GMT) Friday.
Complicating the investigation, some of the passengers on the train manifest may not have boarded at all, while others may have left the train at an earlier stop, Weener said.
The “California Zephyr” train was carrying passengers and crew from Chicago to Emeryville, California when the truck ignored the signal lights and gates at a highway intersection some 112 kilometers (70 miles) east of the city of Reno.