BALTIMORE -- Efforts to rescue passengers of the Amtrak train that crashed into a Conrail engine in January went well, despite problems with radio communications and inadequate equipment, a new report says.
The report, compiled by the Charles McC. Mathias Jr. National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Systems, is the first detailed account of the rescue operation that started Jan. 4 when a Conrail engine missed several stop signals and went into the path of an Amtrak train. The trains collided, killing 16 people and injuring 175.
The report applauded "the outstanding effectiveness of the system in minimizing loss of life and attendant tragedy."
But it found that standard tools used to cut through the wreckage were inadequate when used on 106-ton rail cars, that an aging radio communications system was often jammed, and that regular contact was not kept with the hospitals.
"Reviews of the response to the incident revealed several areas where more and better equipment, combined with certain administrative steps, could better prepare the system," the report said.
Dr. Ameen Ramzy, director of the state's emergency medical system, said, "We've learned some small lessons that are going to be helpful not only to us but to communities around the country that have been calling us for advice.
"The basic advice I'd have for other communities is: Make your daily emergency system work as well as you can, and make your disaster plan an extension of your daily plan."