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California commuter train partly derails, car lands in water

Last Updated Mar 8, 2016 4:11 AM EST

SUNOL, Calif. -- The first two cars of a six-car commuter train derailed in Central California Monday night and the front car plunged into a swollen creek, authorities said.

The car was partially submerged and crews had to fight fast-moving currents to get people out, Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said.

Images posted on Twitter by Alameda County Fire showed the car on its side about half-submerged in the creek water.

"It was dark, wet, it was raining. It was very chaotic," Kelly said. "This is an absolute miracle that no one was killed, no passengers or first responders."

Four people were seriously hurt, while 10 others had minor injuries, Kelly said.

Later, Alameda Fire lowered the number of injured to nine: four with serious, non-life threatening issues, and the rest minor. The others were treated at the scene and improved, authorities said.

The Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train No. 10 commuter train was traveling from San Jose to Stockton when the two cars went off the tracks in Sunol, a rural area of Alameda County about 45 miles east of San Francisco, officials said.

Along with the one that fell on its side -- into the Alameda Creek -- the other wound up on land and stayed upright, according to ACE officials cited by CBS San Francisco station KPIX-TV.

A fallen tree across the tracks caused the front two cars to derail, the station said, again quoting ACE officials. Authorities said it was raining heavily at the time.

Passenger Rich Howell was in the second car. He told KPIX, "It was jolty. I mean, it was a fairly wild ride."

He and others went to help those in the first car. "We were able to open up the rear door," Howell said. "There were about 20 people inside. Imagine the car's on its side -- it wasn't meant for people to traverse that way. So we had to help people climb over seats and help get them through that rear door. It was quite away off from the ground at that point in time."

Passenger Tanner McEnzie was also in the second car. "People were crying for help and I went to find the conductor," McEnzie told KPIX. "He had flown out the front window, went straight out, had a bad head injury. He was pretty rattled. But I was just trying to stay calm."

After the passengers were evacuated, they were checked by paramedics. The uninjured passengers were transported to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, the fire department said. Buses were sent to pick them up.

Then, work began on the car in the water:

The Fremont Fire tweeted an update on the passengers at the fairgrounds:

Another ACE train had passed through the area unscathed about an hour before the one that partially derailed, KPIX reported.

ACE said there will be no service Tuesday.