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Kids allegedly locked in Amtrak rail car

March 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Officials at Amtrak said normal procedures were followed, but teachers and parents say their well-behaved students were locked into a railcar during a recent field trip by train to the mission at San Juan Capistrano. "We were aghast," said teacher Leslee Zitren from Vista Grande Elementary School, near El Cajon. "What if there had been an accident? What if there had been an emergency?

"We couldn't get ahold of a conductor," she told the San Diego Union- Tribune. "That's not right."

Amtrak officials said doors to the car holding fourth-graders for the hour-plus trip up the coast were not locked, but had been "disarmed," meaning the motorized-doors had been switched to manual operation.

But parents and teachers said no combination of pushing buttons, pulling doors or punching release panels would open the sliding door at one end of the coach.

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham told the Union-Tribune that most school groups are similarly penned in without incident, and that Amtrak conductors show parent chaperones how to manually open the doors in case of emergency.

The 31 children and 27 chaperones had not misbehaved, and reportedly enjoyed the train trip up the coast. On the return trip, parents said the doors were functioning normally and no incidents occurred.

 

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