1995 Palo Verde, Arizona, derailment

The 1995 Palo Verde derailment took place on October 9, 1995, when Amtrak's Sunset Limited was derailed by saboteurs near Palo Verde, Arizona on Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. Two locomotives, Amtrak GE P32-8BWH #511 leading and EMD F40PHR #398 trailing, and eight of 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. Seventy-eight people were injured, 12 of them seriously and 25 were hospitalized.[2]

Palo Verde derailment
LocationPalo Verde, Arizona
DateOctober 9, 1995
TargetAmtrak Sunset Limited
Attack type
Train derailment caused by sabotage
MotiveRetaliation of the Waco Siege

Incident edit

The site of the derailment in 2013. The large gouge in the embankment was created by the impact of the train.

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 wreck, indicating that the train had been sabotaged.[3] All four notes were similar. One of the notes was found by Neal Hallford,[4][5][6] a passenger traveling from Oklahoma to San Diego.

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 wreck of the City of San Francisco, in which a similar method killed 24 people.[7]

Following the incident, Amtrak President Thomas Downs told CNN that improved monitoring and security measures have greatly reduced the chances of a similar incident.[2]

The saboteurs were never identified.

After 1996, the Sunset Limited was rerouted to south of Phoenix (approaching no closer than Maricopa) due to the desire of Union Pacific to abandon this stretch of track for its through trains between southern New Mexico and southern California.[8] The section of track, now known as the Roll Industrial Lead of the Phoenix Subdivision, on which the derailment took place is now used as storage track only. It could be reactivated in the future if freight traffic increases.

Media coverage edit

The causes of this wreck have been explored in two major documentaries, Why Trains Crash: Blood on the Tracks, and Derailed: America's Worst Train Wrecks.

It has also been featured on the May 10, 1996, episode of Unsolved Mysteries.[9] and Parcasts’ Conspiracy Theories podcast on Spotify on April 17, 2024.

Investigation edit

The case remains unsolved. On April 10, 2015, the Phoenix office of the FBI announced a reward of $310,000 for information about the derailment leading to the capture of those responsible.[10] The reward is still outstanding as of 2023.[11]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Labaton, Stephen (October 11, 1995). "F.B.I. Studies Note for Clues On Derailment". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 18, 2023. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Hill, Jim (October 10, 1995). "Sabotage suspected in 'terrorist' derailment". CNN. Archived from the original on December 15, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  3. ^ "THE TEXT; Derailment Letter". The New York Times. October 14, 1995. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 10, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2024.
  4. ^ Hajek, Danny (April 12, 2015). "20 Years Later, Sabotage Of Amtrak's Sunset Limited Still A Mystery". NPR. Archived from the original on March 22, 2024. Retrieved April 5, 2024.
  5. ^ Stapleton, Erica (October 9, 2020). "25 years later: Deadly Sunset Limited train derailment attack remains a mystery". 12 News. Archived from the original on June 4, 2023. Retrieved April 5, 2024.
  6. ^ Hallford, Neal (January 20, 2012). "The Derailment of the Sunset Limited". Swords & Circuitry Non-Fiction. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
  7. ^ "56 Years Ago, A Similar Crash". The New York Times. October 11, 1995. Archived from the original on November 11, 2022. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  8. ^ Johnston, Bob (February 27, 2024). "FRA releases long-distance study interim report, invites comments". Trains. Archived from the original on February 29, 2024. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  9. ^ "Amtrak Crash". Unsolved Mysteries. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  10. ^ D'Angelo, Alexa (April 6, 2015). "FBI offers $300K reward 20 years after Arizona train derails". azcentral. Archived from the original on December 6, 2022. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  11. ^ Gearty, Robert (October 11, 2020). "Sabotage of Amtrak train in Arizona desert remains unsolved 25 years later". Fox News. Archived from the original on November 8, 2022. Retrieved October 11, 2020.

External links edit

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