HANFORD -- Two cars and the locomotive of an Amtrak train carrying about 169 passengers and heading to Bakersfield derailed Monday after colliding with a big rig truck south of Hanford, authorities said.
Forty-two passengers suffered minor to moderate injuries, authorities said.
The crash occurred when the driver of the big rig carrying cotton trash failed to yield and hit the train, authorities said. The impact pushed the two passenger cars and the locomotive off the tracks.
"The first time I realized there was a problem was when we slammed and stopped," said Jacquie Buchanan, a passenger who sat in the front car that did not turn over. "And then I heard the engineer calling police saying 'We need help. This is as bad as can be.'"
The train traveled about 600 feet after the collision before hitting a switchback and derailing, according to California Patrol Officer Scott Harris.
The crash occurred at a crossing that was equipped with control gates, Putnam said.
After the crash, metal pieces from the truck could be seen inside the train, which was covered by cotton seeds. Several pieces of luggage were also scattered about.
Darryl Davenport, a passenger, helped to pull people, including children, out of the train. He downplayed the help as another passenger shouted he was a hero.
"I just helped people off the train," Davenport said.
The injuries to passengers were described as bumps, bruises, scrapes and possibly broken bones by Kings County Assistant Sheriff Dave Putnam.
Eight of the injured passengers were taken to Adventist Medical Center in Hanford and five more were enroute, said hospital spokeswoman Christine Pickering. She did not provide details on the extent of their injuries.
"We did call in additional physicians and staff," Pickering said.
Four additional injured passengers were taken to nearby Adventist Medical Center in Selma.
The train was on its way from Oakland to Bakersfield, according to Amtrak. It had four rail cars and a locomotive.
The truck driver suffered minor injuries, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Jerry Pierce. The CHP will investigate the crash.
"This is a big, huge chaotic scene with lots of agencies involved," Pierce said.
At around 5 p.m., a bus arrived in Bakersfield carrying passengers from the train.
Cashmere Wilkins, of Pasadena, had been in Sacramento to pick up some belongings that were in storage. She was sitting in the last car, which did not turn over. But when she felt the crash, she was scared.
"It was scary because once I felt it, the whole train shut down," she said.
Elaine Leon, on the other hand, was unphased. At 80 years old, Leon said not much scares her.
"I was riding along, reading my book when all of a sudden there was a really strong jerk," she said. "I think I took it well. I tried to relax."
The collision also caused delays for train customers waiting to leave Bakersfield. Buses were taking customers between Bakersfield and Hanford, said Vernae Graham, an Amtrak spokeswoman.
Terry Walridge, of Los Angeles, said he was going to Sacramento, and his train was supposed to leave at 1:45 p.m. Nearly two hours later, he was waiting for a bus to transport him instead to his final destination of Sacramento.
"It's typical," Walridge said of his travel woes.
He added that Amtrak handled the situation far better than the delays he's experienced with airlines. He said Amtrak officials have kept passengers up to date on when to expect transport, and they supplied free bottled water.
Yvette Caldera enjoyed a weekend in Las Vegas, where she traveled so her daughter could attend a Justin Bieber concert. She said they needed to get back home to Antioch because her daughter has school and Caldera can't miss work.
They were supposed to be in Antioch by 8:30 p.m., but with the delay she has no idea what time they'll arrive.
"I need to be home," Caldera said. "We're in the middle of nowhere."
The Associated Press, The Fresno Bee and Californian staff writers Jason Kotowski and Rebecca Kheel contributed to this report