Altamont Corridor Express Train Derails in Sunol, 1 Car Falls Into Creek

The first two cars of a commuter train transporting people from Silicon Valley to the Central Valley derailed in Sunol Monday evening, injuring nine on board, four of them seriously, police said.

The leading car of the 214-passenger Altamont Corridor Express train No. 10 plunged into Alameda Creek after ramming into a tree near 5500 Niles Canyon Road between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m., authorities said. 

According to Steve Walker with the Altamont Corridor Express, the train’s first car, which weighs 120,000 pounds, has 130 seats in it. It was carrying six passengers and one crew member when it struck a tree that had fallen onto the tracks and fell into into the water.

At the time of the accident, officials reported that it was raining heavily in Sunol, a rural area of Alameda County, about 45 miles east of San Francisco. Passengers believe the wet weather caused a mudslide and downed a tree, which triggered the crash.

"It just shifted the gravity all of a sudden and we were all just panicking," Rad Akhter said. "There were two people hurt, pretty badly. One was just under the mudslide so we were trying to dig her out while the train was hanging so it was a pretty crazy experience."

Passengers told NBC Bay Area that they were terrified to find themselves in the water, forced to save fellow passengers and trek to safety through complete darkness.  

"We knew we were in a pretty remote area so we knew we had some hiking to do along the train tracks," said a passenger identified only as Kathy. "I'm grateful that it wasn't worse."

Crews had to fight the creek's fast-moving currents to pull riders from the partially submerged rail car, Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said. Images posted on Twitter by the Alameda County Fire Department show the train car on its side and half-submerged in water. He said that the train car landed in the water on its side and the car began to fill with water. 

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"It was dark, wet, it was raining. It was very chaotic,'' Kelly said. "This is an absolute miracle that no one was killed, no passengers or first responders.''

The second car behind it also derailed, but managed to stay upright while the three cars behind them, including the locomotive, stayed on the tracks, Walker said.

Five of the wounded passengers sustained minor injuries while the rest suffered serious, but non-life threatening injuries. They were rushed to Washington Hospital in Fremont and Eden Hospital in Castro Valley. Earlier in the night, officials reported that 14 people had been wounded, but later clarified that a few with minor injuries had been treated at the scene and were feeling better. 

As of 10 p.m., all the passengers were removed from the train and were being assessed, officials said. ACE sent buses to the crash site to transport uninjured commuters to the Alameda County Fairgrounds where they were reunited with anxious family members and friends, officials said. 

Around 10:15 p.m., however, commuters said on social media that they were still at the crash site, hungry and cold. Buses were not expected to reach the passengers till nearly 11 p.m., they said.

"This is beginning to look like that Harrison Ford movie #TheFugitive derailment scene," Twitter user John Wong wrote.

Multiple agencies, including the Fremont Police Department and Alameda County Fire Department responded to the scene. Police shut down Niles Canyon Road and expect it to remain closed until further notice.

"Once we get some daylight, we’ll be able to really see what’s going on and walk the tracks," Kelly said.

The ACE train was traveling from San Jose to Stockton, according to its website. The train — the last one othe night — was en route from Fremont to Pleasanton, Walker said.

Railway officials said after the derailment that there will be no ACE train service Tuesday.

"We are working with our partners to restore service as soon as possible pending a complete investigation and assurance that the tracks are safe," ACE train officials said on their website.

ACE officials also provided taxis for the commuters stranded in Pleasanton when the train derailed. The taxis took them to their destinations, people said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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