Local News

Passenger: Amtrak Train Evacuation 'Ridiculous'

Posted August 25, 2007 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2007 6:38 p.m. EDT

— An Amtrak train headed from New York to Miami caught fire Saturday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of more than 150 passengers in Johnston County.

No one was injured, but some of the passengers said they were not pleased with the experience. Many boarded charter buses to get to their final destinations.

“This is my first time to get on the Amtrak, and this is what happens. I’m never getting on it again,” said passenger Nilda Santos.

The train's engine room caught fire at about 4:15 p.m., Amtrak officials said. Passengers were evacuated in Micro and sent to North Johnston Middle School, according to school officials.

“The train was moving kind of slow, but when it got here, the train just started smoking,” said passenger Rick Ramsey.

“I thought it was fog in the middle of the day, but then I smelled the smoke, like rubber burning,” said passenger Sunhey Martin.

Carole Harvey said she noticed that the air-conditioning went off, and she smelled something burning.

“We stopped the train, and they made us sit here for awhile. Then they said, ‘You can get off. You’re getting right back on,’” Harvey said.

But they never got back on. William McDougle was one of the passengers who waited in the heat for more than an hour.

“All I want to do now is make it on into Fayetteville and hope my sister doesn't want to kill me when I get there. They've been waiting since 3:30,” he said.

Though Johnston County Emergency crews worked to keep people hydrated, some had a hard time keeping their cool.

“Second time I’ve done this route,” Harvey said. “Amtrak should be ashamed of themselves. This is ridiculous.”

McDougle took a different approach.

“They’re doing the best they can, really,” he said. The train was on fire, so what you had to do, you had to get off.”

As for the damaged locomotive, it was towed to a station in Wilson for repair. Passengers will have the option of having their tickets refunded, officials said.