1993 Amtrak crash survivor relives each new one times free press electricity bill bihar electricity board


Suddenly, those three and more than 200 other people were caught up in what remains the deadliest accident in Amtrak history, the derailment of the Los Angeles- to-Miami Sunset Limited in a south Alabama bayou in 1993. Forty-seven people died and more than 100 others were hurt.

Once survivors and victims were plucked out of a river delta so remote it’s called "America’s Amazon," the National Transportation Safety Board opened an investigation. The agency held a public hearing in Mobile, just miles from the bayou, made multiple recommendations to improve safety, and the world moved on.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Geary L. Chancey, a pilot and Vietnam veteran, and wife Mary Jane Chancey, a schoolteacher, adopted Andrea when she was only a few weeks old. Born with severe cerebral palsy, their girl would need assistance the rest of her life; she still uses a wheelchair and has home health care aides who cook and clean for her.

The family was living in Orange Park, Fla., in 1993 when they boarded Amtrak’s Sunset Limited for a trip to visit relatives in Ocean Springs, Miss. Andrea’s wheelchair made boarding more difficult for them than for other passengers, but she was thrilled about her first train ride.

Their visit to the Gulf Coast done, the Chanceys boarded the eastbound Sunset Limited toward home at Biloxi, Miss., the night of Sept. 21, 1993. The train was running about 30 minutes late because of an air conditioning problem that was repaired in New Orleans.

With the landscape shrouded in fog, a confused Odom unknowingly turned off the river into Big Bayou Canot, a narrow, non-navigable waterway that snakes through the delta and is crossed by a railroad bridge that lacked lights. As Odom tried to find a tree to tie up until the fog lifted, records show, a barge struck a bridge support, bending the rail tracks more than 1 yard out of line just eight minutes before the Amtrak train arrived.

Traveling at 72 mph, the lead locomotive reached the bridge and jumped the track at the spot where the rails were bent by the barge collision. The 3,000-horsepower, 240-ton engine flew across the bayou, embedding in about 46 feet of mud on the opposite bank. Two other locomotives followed it into the water, along with a baggage car, a crew dorm car and two passenger coaches.

Chancey doesn’t recall seeing either of her parents again, possibly because of water rushing into the car and inky darkness — the only light came from burning diesel fuel that spilled from the locomotives. But she does remember a few people who got her out of the wreckage, including Ivory, who had decided to take the train to North Carolina to see his wife only after missing a commercial flight.

After briefly attending Wright State University and a failed marriage, Chancey wound up back on the Mississippi coast in Biloxi, where she lives today in an apartment with an assistance dog. Still in a wheelchair, she has help during daylight hours from home health aides.

Ivory, who was honored by the Coast Guard with another passenger, Michael Dopheide, for his life-saving efforts that night, also struggled with the aftermath. He wondered both why he survived and why he couldn’t save more people. For a while, the smell of diesel fuel took him back to the scene of the crash; he figures his work in oil fields where diesel is abundant helped him tamp down the response.

Odom, the towboat pilot, was named as a defendant in more than 90 lawsuits after the crash but never faced criminal charges. He told investigators he felt a "bump" as he was pushing the barges that night but didn’t realize what had happened until he heard a "whoosh" and saw the glow of fire through the fog. Still near the crash site, the Mauvilla and its crew helped pull people from the water.

Odom did not respond to an interview request. He hasn’t worked in the river industry since and has struggled for more than two decades with the guilt and pain of what happened, said brother Morsco Odom — though over time, his anguish has eased a bit.

The bayou bridge should have been in better shape to begin with, she said, and Amtrak has had too many accidents in the years since. Willie Odom has suffered enough, Chancey said, particularly considering he helped save 17 people after the crash — including her — using the same towboat that hit the bridge.