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Probe Underway Into Zoo Train Derailment

State officials have begun an investigation into what caused the derailment of a Louisville Zoo train Monday afternoon that sent twenty people to the hospital.The zoo issued this release Monday night:LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Louisville Zoo train derailed near the backside of the Zoo’s Gorilla Forest exhibit around 4:30 p.m. today. Three open-air cars and an engine landed on its left side about four feet away from the track.

It is believed about 30 people were on board (which includes the driver of the train) when it derailed.

Louisville Metro EMS along with Louisville Fire’s Engine 10 and Engine 11 and Rural Ambulance and Yellow Ambulance arrived with minutes.

Twenty people were transported by EMS to local hospitals—14 children and six adults ranging in age from 2 months to senior citizens. Two declined service. It is believed the other eight passengers left before EMS arrived.

At the time the patients were transported, according to CEO and medical director for Louisville Metro EMS Dr. Neal Richmond, all patients were in stable condition, most with cuts, scrapes and bruises. Two adult patients were transported with potentially more serious injuries.

“There was real teamwork  by EMS, Fire and police,” Richmond said, “and the Zoo showed how a  well thought-out and rehearsed emergency disaster plan can make all the difference—one of the best I’ve ever seen. Staff lined the roads and pointed the way from outside the Zoo right to the scene. Emergency responders were able to get in and out very fast, and the Zoo staff’s work helped make a very difficult scene one that we could effectively manage.”

The cause of the incident is not yet known and three Kentucky Department of Agriculture ride inspectors are onsite completing a full comprehensive investigation. The final report will not be available for several days and will be released from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Frankfort, Ky., office.

The train ride has been a popular attraction at the Zoo since it opened 40 years ago. This specific train, which was purchased in 2000, has a capacity of between 40-50 passengers. The train travels at an average speed of 12 miles per hour around a track which is approximately 2 miles in length and encircles the zoo.

The train will be closed until further notice.

Rick Howlett was midday host and the host of LPM's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." He was with LPM from 2001-2023 and held many different titles, including Morning Edition host, Assignment Editor and Interim News Director. He died in August 2023. Read a remembrance of Rick here.

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