‘Not holding you hostage’: Amtrak conductor scolds passengers who called 911 during nightmare delay

Passengers traveling overnight by train from Virginia to Florida on Monday found themselves part of a 37-hour-long nightmare when a derailment left them stranded without a crew in rural South Carolina.

“…for those of you that are calling the police, we are not holding you hostage.”

(Video: ABC News)

The Amtrak Auto Train departed the station about 20 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. in Lorton, Virginia at 5 pm Monday with 563 passengers, 333 vehicles and an unreported number of animals. The 17-hour nonstop trip to Sanford, Florida, outside Orlando, was expected to arrive Tuesday morning around 10 am but had been waylaid in South Carolina when a freight train derailed in Lake City.

As reported by ABC News, “no injuries to the crew of the train and no hazardous materials” were involved in the two locomotive, 25 car derailment, but several tracks were blocked requiring Amtrak to reroute and, thanks to the delay, for the crew to timeout.

While passengers awaited the arrival of a fresh crew to resume transport, panic began to set in as the transport which left the station with approximately one and a half meals per passenger ran out of food and travelers were prohibited from stepping off the train. ABC reporter Sam Sweeney reported on developments and shared a video from a passenger where a conductor can be heard asking passengers to stop calling 911.

“And once again, for those of you that are calling the police, we are not holding you hostage. We are giving you all the information in which we have. We are sorry about the inconvenience. As soon as more information is available, we will let you know shortly. Thank you,” the announcement said as Sweeney detailed, “A travel nightmare is unfolding right now on Amtrak. Passengers on the Auto Train have been stuck on board for 29+ hours, currently sitting in the woods in rural South Carolina. Passengers called the local police saying they’re being held hostage.”

However, another announcement from a conductor seemed to conflict with claims that the passengers weren’t hostages as they were told, “Please remember that you are traveling on federal property so the cops outside of here cannot help you on here.”

Concerned travelers with dogs reported that they were not allowed to take their pets for walks so that they could relieve themselves, but evidently, that matter was resolved as Amtrak provided a statement to ABC News that said, “We have been providing regular updates to customer, along with meals, snack packs and beverages. The onboard staff is working with pet owners to provide bathroom breaks.”

Customers reported their “frustration” and felt as though they were not being given enough information about what was happening while they were stranded.

As far as meals go, Sweeney reported that it wasn’t until the train resumed its course and stopped in Savannah, Georgia that additional food was provided in the form of a pizza delivery. However, no word was given on resolving the need of passengers who were without access to needed medications.

Ultimately, Sweeney wrote, “After 37 hours and a pizza delivery to the train in Savannah, Georgia– The Auto Train has arrived at its destination in Sanford, Florida.”

No statement had been provided by Amtrak on possible restitution for the hundreds of travelers.

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