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Train derails in Skagway

No serious injuries reported, but some passengers tossed into water

Posted: July 23, 2014 - 5:38pm  |  Updated: July 24, 2014 - 12:08am
A White Pass & Yukon Route train is seen during a return trip from Lake Bennett to Skagway after picking up hikers from the Chilkoot Trail in late June.  Phillip Moser | For the Juneau Empire
Phillip Moser | For the Juneau Empire
A White Pass & Yukon Route train is seen during a return trip from Lake Bennett to Skagway after picking up hikers from the Chilkoot Trail in late June.

A White Pass & Yukon Route railroad train reportedly derailed near Skagway late Wednesday afternoon, but no one is believed to be seriously injured, according to authorities.

Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett told the Empire the derailment was “minor” and that nine people would be treated for non-critical injuries.

“It was a minor derailment, no serious injuries,” Leggett said in a phone interview shortly before 5 p.m.

Those injured did not require immediate medical attention or a medevac. In fact, Leggett said they rode the train down the rest of the way. A bus was scheduled to pick up inured passengers at the Skagway train station to take them to the local medical clinic.

“They rode down on the train, so it’s not that bad,” he said.

Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau was initially told to expect 25 casualties and was placed on standby. BRH spokesman Jim Strader confirmed they were taken off standby around 4:30 p.m.

“We are standing down from our incident command mode, and it does not appear that any of the injuries will warrant transport, so we don’t expect to receive any casualties,” he said in an interview around 4:45 p.m. “Excellent news. We’re all very happy about that.”

BRH was given notice and updates from the medical clinic in Skagway, which did not immediately return phone calls.

The cause of the derailment is not known, and the White Pass & Yukon Route could not be immediately reached for comment. It’s not known which route the train was on.

Leggett said he imagines one of the wheels of the engine went off the tracks at one of the switches near the Denver Glacier, about 30 minutes to an hour outside of Skagway. The train was going at a low speed in a flat area, he said.

Some people were jostled, and others actually fell off the train and into water, he said.

“It wasn’t real deep water where they could drown,” Leggett said. “It just cushioned the fall.”

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters told the Empire 10 to 20 passengers were believed to be on board at the time.

The White Pass was built during the Klondike Gold Rush and connects Skagway to Whitehorse. It offers both one-way and roundtrip excursions to cities in between.

It travels through steep terrain at times, climbing nearly 3,000 feet over just 20 miles and features steep upgrades of up to 3.9 percent, cliff hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels, and numerous bridges and trestles, according to its website.

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