The Sunset Limited: 20 Years Later - WRBL

The Sunset Limited: 20 Years Later

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MOBILE, Alabama -

It was September 22, 1993 when fire and chaos broke out on the Mobile River. 911 calls started pouring in.

You're with the Amtrak train?

Yes ma'am I'm the supervisor on board we're on the Mobile River.

You're on the Mobile River?

We've got cars burning everywhere, there's people in the water, we're trying to help them but we need all kinds of help.

Just stay on the line, ok?

Ma'am I have to go and assist these folks.

The calls started coming in at 2:53 a.m. Help was needed near Bayou Canot.

We've got cars burning and people in the river that can't swim. We need help. Any kind of help you can get down here.

Stay on the line with me, sir.

"Never in my mind did I think it was a passenger train, I was thinking it was a cargo train. I was thinking it was a tanker car or something like that," said Steve Huffman with Mobile Fire Rescue.

Huffman was one of the first on scene that morning. Nothing could prepare him for what he was about to encounter.

"The task was body recovery essentially. We didn't know how many we had," he said.

220 passengers and crew members were on-board, all needing help. Some were in the water, while others were trying to free themselves from the wreckage.

"I heard the moans from the other passengers and somebody said oh my God we're all going to die," said a passenger.

47 people died that morning, most of them drowned in the murky water. Mobile Fire Rescue had never trained for anything like this.

"The drill was a plane crash in the bay. The furthest thing from your mind is that you're going to have to deal with a passenger train, especially in a remote area," said Huffman.

The Sunset Limited was on it's way from L.A. to Miami.

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