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Cause of train crash unknown

An Amtrak train carrying 210 people from Chicago to California derailed in rural Iowa, killing one passenger, injuring about 90 others and leaving a zigzagging trail of silver cars along a muddy embankment.

At least seven of the injured passengers were hospitalized, and dozens of others were treated and released from area hospitals after suffering minor injuries.

The cause of the crash about 11:40 p.m. Saturday 70 miles southwest of Des Moines was unknown.

Terry Williams, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators were gathering details on the scene.

The California Zephyr's two locomotives and 15 cars were carrying 195 passengers and 15 crew members, Amtrak spokeswoman Debra Hare said. Amtrak spokeswoman Karen Dunn said company policy forbids it from releasing the victim's name and a list of passengers.

Charlie Romstad of Colorado Springs, Colo., said in a telephone call to the Associated Press that the passenger killed was his mother, Stella Riehl, 69, also of Colorado Springs.

Romstad, 46, said his mother came to Des Moines last week because her brother, who was living in a Des Moines nursing home, had died.

Amtrak spokeswoman Cheryle Jackson said at an Omaha, Neb., news conference that the victim was a passenger but she could not immediately confirm the person's identity.

The scene of the wreckage stretched about one-fourth of a mile. Workers began picking up debris near the tipped-over cars.

Two silver cars lay across the railroad, and an overturned car lay parallel to the track in a muddy bank. Other cars teetered along the track near the snow-covered ground.

"I think everybody was amazed that there weren't more fatalities and injuries," said Nodaway fire Chief Larry Pond.

Of the seven passengers who were hospitalized, at least two were listed in serious condition.

Shaheda Ula, 47, of Laramie, Wyo., was being treated for a broken hip at University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

"It just shook and shook again, and everybody screamed," she said from her hospital bed. "I don't remember anything after that."

Her husband, Sadrul, was not injured, nor was her daughter, 14-year-old Nafisa.

The train left Chicago on time at 3:35 p.m. and was headed to Emeryville, Calif., according to the Amtrak reservation office. Romstad said the train was delayed about an hour when his mother boarded it in Osceola, Iowa, at 10:50 p.m.

Jim Anderson, who lives off a winding gravel road less than a mile from the crash site, said he was in bed when the derailment startled him and his dog.

"I thought my furnace blowed up. I heard a bunch of grinding and then boom," he said. "That dog of mine jumped out of bed and started growling at the window."

Passenger Mary Clare Maloney, 16, of Des Moines said she was on the top deck of a car playing cards with other students headed for a ski vacation.

"The first thing was where the lights flickered and went out," she said. "Then there was bump and that was not a big deal but we started going faster into the ditch."

She said she waited more than an hour in the top level of the car to be rescued. Her train car was at a 45-degree angle, tipped so she walked on the wall and not the floor. "That was kind of weird and dizzying," she said.