19 injured after tourist train derails

Nineteen people were treated for minor injuries after a scenic excursion train partially derailed northeast of Skagway on Wednesday afternoon. 

Nineteen people were treated for minor injuries after a scenic excursion train partially derailed northeast of Skagway on Wednesday afternoon.

The incident, which took place just before 2 p.m. local time, involved two vintage locomotives and four rail cars belonging to the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway company.

The injured passengers were transported to the Dahl Memorial Clinic in Skagway, where they were treated for bumps and bruises and released within hours.

There are few details surrounding the exact cause of the accident other than it happened near the White Pass Summit.

The train was carrying approximately 360 people when it suddenly left the tracks near the Alaska and Yukon border.

“Any injury connected to our rail operations, whether to our passengers or our employees, is always considered serious,” said John Finlayson, president of the company, in a news release yesterday.

He said a thorough investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the accident.

Mike Booth, a public affairs specialist with the Federal Railroad Administration, confirmed the agency was sending an inspector to the site.

“We have someone on the way out there right now to evaluate the situation,” he said.

“We have certain criteria that trigger an investigation.”

Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett said passengers rode the train back to the small town and were bused over to the clinic.

Leggett said his police force and emergency services were prepared for anything.

“The upside about this is that we got a lot of calls from people we could utilize in the event of a worst case scenario,” he said.

“We had a lot of good people ready and willing to respond. In a weird way, it was kind of like an unplanned drill.”

Leggett also said the police department received a large number of calls immediately after the incident, which is when things got a little out of hand.

“Somehow it got really messed up,” he said.

“People started making calls and then they talked about rumors that two people had died.”

This isn’t the first time a White Pass and Yukon Route diesel locomotive has derailed.

In Sept. 2006, a heavy equipment operator was killed and three other White Pass employees were seriously injured when an eight-car train derailed near the Alaska and Yukon border.

Two years later, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board determined the crash had been caused by a variety of safety infractions.

The train was too heavy and none of the personnel were trained on how to use the brake equipment or how to deal with emergencies, the board found.

The White Pass & Yukon Route company uses approximately 110 kilometres of railway between Skagway and Carcross, according to its news release.

The railway announced it expects to resume full operations today.

Contact Myles Dolphin at myles@yukon-news.com

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