Death By Fire and Water

A wayward tug in a foggy bayou may have led to Amtrak's worst accident

The train was 34 minutes late, timing that in the end proved fatal. At 2:50 a.m. Amtrak's Sunset Limited reached the wood-and-steel span over Big Bayou Canot in Alabama. It had crossed the bridge dozens of times since its Los Angeles-to-Miami route was inaugurated in April. And so, with 210 people on board, it came confidently down the tracks -- and into the worst accident in Amtrak's 23-year history.

Apparently, just minutes before, the tugboat MV Mauvilla had had an encounter with the same bridge. Pushing a tow of six barges strapped together, the ship had taken a wrong turn on...

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