DUNCAN, Okla. — The train derailment at Duncan’s Kiddieland that injured at least 10 was caused by brake failure and the traveling speed, according to an Oklahoma Department of Labor report.
Witnesses indicated the train had gone too fast around the southern curve of the tracks, tipping over the middle passenger car and ejecting some passengers and pinning others, according to the report.
Mark Morris, investigator for the Department of Labor, received a call from Duncan Chisholm Trail Kiwanis Club at approximately 8 p.m. Saturday after the wreck, which occurred around 7:37 p.m., according to the Duncan Police Department.
Morris advised to shut the ride down until he could arrive. Once on site, Morris photographed the area where the train derailed during the last regular weekend of Kiddieland’s summer season.
In his report, Morris documented 10 injuries. Four individuals were taken by ambulance and six others by personal vehicles. Ages of those injured ranged from age 2 to 67, including five minor children, according to the report.
A summary of the incident from Morris reported “a brake failure from a vacuum leak on the brakes,” coupled with “the speed the train was traveling was the result of the derailment.” The ride will remain shut down until a re-inspection is performed after repairs are completed.
The derailment occurred when the train rounded the south side of the track and the driver braked, causing two cars to go offtrack and riders to be thrown out, according to the Department of Labor report. Of those taken to Duncan Regional Hospital, all were treated and released.
‘God, please stop this train’
Hayden Cooper drove the train the night of the derailment and provided Department of Labor with a statement detailing the events of the evening, including normal inspections and walking the track to check for obstructions.
Cooper conducted a dry run of the ride before the park opened, according to the report. During the first ride of the evening, after going over the rules with the passengers, Cooper reported when he pulled the throttle, it didn’t run but instead “rattled.” He said he released the throttle to give it a chance to rest before trying again, when it then ran like normal.
Cooper noticed the throttle was trying to pull itself back into the idle position while it was running, according to the report. He said he thought nothing of it as he had heard the train was recently worked on and believed it could have been something new that he wasn’t told about yet.
According to the report, Cooper said the rides went normally throughout the night — until the final ride of the evening when he had a nearly full train. Cooper said through the first time around there were no problems, but that was’t the case for the second lap when he sped up the train — as previously directed — “in order to keep the battery charged.”
Cooper pushed the throttle to slow the train down as they approached the curve. When he noticed the ride wasn’t slowing down, he quickly pushed the brake and hoped the train would slow in time, according to the report.
Cooper detailed noticing the train wasn’t slowing down or stopping and examined the air gauge, which was dropping, according to the report. He quickly realized it wasn’t going to stop and prayed, “God, please stop this train.”
According to the report, Cooper felt a massive jerk and when he looked behind him, he saw the middle car had broken off the actual wheels and tipped over. He jumped out of his seat as he heard “horrified screaming” and heard someone was under the overturned car.
Cooper started to lift the train in an effort to help the stuck individual and immediately began dialing 911 to get responders on scene, according to the report. He stayed with the train but kept away from park patrons because a man was yelling threatening things.
Witness: Train ‘flew past the loading station’
When police arrived on scene, they had Cooper step away to discuss the incident. According to the report, a test determined the driver was not under the influence of any illicit substances.
Passenger Jessica McKee, who is about 15 weeks pregnant, stated she and her niece boarded the train. When the ride began heading south on the first turn, she felt it slow down. Once the train turned, she described it picking up speed and said it felt like they “flew past the loading station,” according to the report.
McKee said she couldn’t remember the actual derailment because she was knocked out for split second. When she came to, McKee said she saw a kid trapped underneath the train, according to the report. She couldn’t move her arm because she landed on her shoulder and was in a lot of pain. She was sent to the emergency room along with her niece.
The Duncan Fire Department worked to remove pinned passengers from under the car and also administered first aid to those injured, according to the report.