1995 Palo Verde Train Derailment


Train derailments are not all that uncommon. When you think of derailment by sabotage, you mind may wander to the French Resistance of WWII. Domestic Terrorism is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. However, on October 9, 1995, at approximately 1:30 am, that is what happened in Palo Verde, Arizona.

Two Amtrack locomotives, and eight of twelve cars they were pulling, derailed, four of them falling 30 feet off a trestle bridge into a dry river bed. One Amtrack employee was killed and 78 people were injured. As people were climbing out of the overturned cars, passenger Neal Hallford saw a piece of paper under a rock near the wreckage. On the paper was a typewritten, anti-government manifesto. The manifesto was signed, “Sons of the Gestapo.” It was not an accident.

Investigators found several more notes near the crash site. They also found that the tracks hadclearly been sabotaged. Someone had shifted the rails out of position, but only after they had been connected with wires. These wires kept the track circuit closed, circumventing safety systems designed to warn railroad employees of track problems. It appeared that whoever had done this had some working knowledge of railroads.

The manifesto that was found was titled “Indictment of the ATF and FBI” It went on to express outrage of the sieges of Waco and Ruby Ridge. It appeared to be the work of a right wing extremist group. However, no one had ever heard of the Sons of the Gestapo. Their name was never referenced before or since. The FBI took over the investigation, but quickly the trail went cold. The case remains unsolved today. There is some speculation that the manifesto was a hoax. The obviously inflammatory Gestapo reference and no follow up seemed to point in that direction. Investigators mused that it was possibly a disgruntled railroad employee. Several workers were looked at, but there was never any solid evidence to point in that direction. The FBI is still offering a $310,000 reward for information leading to an indictment.

*photo curtesy of the fbi


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