An Amtrak train from Washington derailed and slammed into a packed commuter train in Boston’s Back Bay station during this morning’s rush hour, injuring 186 passengers, 10 of them critically, officials said.
The impact “threw the trains in the air,” and spilled 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel that caught fire in the downtown underground station, said acting city Fire Commissioner John Harrison.
The commuter train from Stoughton, south of Boston, was hit by Amtrak’s Night Owl from Washington at 8:33 a.m., said Nancy Sterling Gleason, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.
Injured passengers, many of whom were trapped for a half-hour underground, were taken to seven area hospitals.
Jon Fasana, director of emergency services for the city, said 186 people were injured, including 10 critically. No deaths were reported.
A woman at the scene said one train looked like a “twisted tin can.”
“The doors all flew open. Some windows shattered. People were all over the floor, screaming, crying,” she said.
Rescuers used hydraulic tools to get into the cars.
Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black in Washington said the Night Owl, which left Washington at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, apparently “derailed on a curve and went into the side of the MBTA train on an adjacent track.”
Two passenger cars, two engines and two baggage cars on the Night Owl went off the track and pushed two commuter cars onto the next track, said Brent Bahler, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Black said it was unclear what caused the train to derail. Federal inspectors were due in Boston later today.
Harrison said the trains collided with such force that the street overhead buckled.
A shopkeeper inside the station said the shelves in the store trembled and ceiling tiles fell.
“My first reaction was to cover my cup of coffee,” said Jeanne Marie Hardin, “and then somebody poked their head in the store and said, ‘Call an ambulance.’ ”
The station filled with smoke. Eyewitnesses said many passengers, dazed and covered with soot, wandered out of the station, some crying, many assisted by emergency personnel.
One elderly woman, her face black with soot and wearing no shoes, asked police: “Where’s my luggage? Where are my shoes?”
About 50 people were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital but their injuries did not appear serious, said spokesman Martin Bander.
“We were sitting on the train and the next thing--crash, bang, boom,” commuter train passenger Kathy Simons said as she was carried away on a stretcher to an ambulance. “I ended up on the floor with a seat on top of me.”