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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.

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.[4]

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. ^ "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