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Doomed Amtrak Train Ran Red Light

July 1, 1999

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The engineer of one of the two Amtrak trains that collided early Thursday ignored a red light just seconds before the wreck, which injured eight passengers, a federal investigator said.

``I made a bad mistake. I made a bad judgment,″ the engineer radioed from the cab of his southbound Silver Palm, according to Russ Gober, lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Eight people were injured when the trains hit at 3 a.m.

Modesto Romero, his wife Maria, and their two children were asleep in a cabin when Mrs. Romero tumbled to the floor.

``I was asleep and then I heard my wife. I jumped up and held up the top bunk where my kids were sleeping,″ said Romero. ``They were a little scared.″

One train was headed to Miami from New York City, while the other was on its way to New York City from Miami. The trains, both called the Silver Palm, were carrying a combined 300 passengers.

The southbound train, traveling at 55 mph, slammed into the northbound Amtrak train, which was moving onto a side track off the main rail at 14 mph, Gober said. Four locomotives and seven cars derailed.

Passenger Rhodell Green of Hollywood said the wreck jolted her out of her seat.

``I didn’t know what happened. It felt like just a big hit,″ Ms. Green said. ``I thought we had run over a truck or something.″

The injured passengers were treated for cuts and bruises and released.

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