1995 Palo Verde, Arizona derailment

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Palo Verde derailment
Location Palo Verde, Arizona
Date October 9, 1995
Target Amtrak Sunset Limited train
Attack type
train derailment
Deaths 1
Non-fatal injuries
78
Perpetrators unknown; possibly right-wing domestic terrorists, although it is possible that claims of terrorist activity were made to conceal an attempt to rob the train
Motive avenge the Waco Siege

The 1995 Palo Verde derailment took place on October 9, 1995, when Amtrak's Sunset Limited derailed near Palo Verde, Arizona on Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. The two locomotives and eight of the twelve cars derailed, four of them falling 30 feet (9 m) off a trestle bridge into a dry river bed.[1] Mitchell Bates, a sleeping car attendant, was killed. 78 people were injured, 12 of them seriously.

Incident[edit]

Four typewritten notes, attacking the ATF and the FBI for the 1993 Waco Siege, criticizing local law enforcement, and signed "Sons of the Gestapo", were found near the scene of the crash, indicating that the train had been sabotaged. All four notes were identical copies of the same message. Two of the notes were found by Neal Hallford,[2] a passenger traveling from Oklahoma to San Diego, California.

It was found that the rails had been shifted out of position to cause the derailment, but only after they had been connected with wires. This kept the track circuit closed, circumventing safety systems designed to warn locomotive engineers of track problems, and suggested that the saboteurs had a working knowledge of railroads. The attack was likened to the 1939 crash of the City of San Francisco, in which a similar method killed 24 people. [3]

The saboteurs were never identified. The FBI now believes that the "Sons of the Gestapo" terrorist group was fictitious and invented to conceal a plan to wreck and rob a freight train. It is also thought that the sabotage may have been done by a disgruntled rail worker who used the notes to mislead investigators and conceal the real motive.

After 1996, the Sunset Limited was rerouted away from Phoenix due to the desire of Southern Pacific to abandon this stretch of track. The section of track on which the wreck took place is now used for storage.

The Note[edit]

The text of the note left at the site.

Indictment of the ATF and the FBI

Before dawn the women awoke to say their morning prayers. The women slept upstairs. They lit their kerosene lamps because the electricity had been turned off by the FBI. After observing lights in all the upstairs windows, the FBI ordered the teargas bombardment. Afterwards only two upstairs windows were lit. The location of each was recorded. Over the next few hours, ventilation holes were poked into the walls. These holes made the fire burn very much faster. Otherwise the fire department would have had time to put out the fire before the women and children died in the flames. At noon the light from the two kerosene lamps was obscured by bright sunlight. Everyone had forgotten about them except the man who carried their locations written on a scrap of paper in his pocket. He ordered the tank drivers where to crash through. Guess under which two windows. He ordered them to raise their guns. As they backed out, the guns were lowered. The video tape shows clearly the floor being raised by the tank a foot and a half. Guess what happened to the kerosene lamps in the rooms above the tanks. A minute afterwards black smoke started to pour out of the windows where the lamps had burned. This is the normal time needed for a kerosene fire to build up.

Who is policing the ATF, FBI, state troopers, county sheriffs and local police? What federal law enforcement agency investigates each and every choke hold killing committed by a police officer? each and every beating of a drunk whether or not a passerby videotapes it? each and every shooting of a police officer's wife who knows too much about drug kickbacks? each and every killing at Ruby Ridge? The Gestapo accounts to no one. This is not Nazi Germany. All these people had rights. It is time for an independent Federal agency to police the law enforcement agencies and other government employees.

Sons of the Gestapo
SOG[4]

Media coverage[edit]

The causes of this wreck have been explored in two major documentaries, Why Trains Crash: Blood on the Tracks, and Derail: America's Worst Train Wrecks. It has also been featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Labaton, Stephen (October 11, 1995). "F.B.I. Studies Note for Clues On Derailment". The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ Hallford, Neal (January 20, 2012). "The Derailment of the Sunset Limited". Swords & Circuitry Non-Fiction. Retrieved January 20, 2012. 
  3. ^ "56 Years Ago, A Similar Crash". The New York Times. October 11, 1995. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  4. ^ "The Text; Derailment Letter (text of note as released by AP)". The New York Times. October 14, 1995. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Amtrak Crash: Sabotage causes the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train.". Retrieved 2012-05-13. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°12′43″N 113°00′56″W / 33.211862°N 113.015445°W / 33.211862; -113.015445