Amtrak Disaster Response
The Mobile Fire Department fire boat Ramona Doyle also known as fire boat 2 was commissioned in 1974. Nineteen years after the Ramona Doyle was commissioned the Ramona Doyle was dispatched on September 22, 1993 around 3 a.m. to the Mobile River Delta bayou north of Mobile for a train derailment of the Amtrak Sunset Limited.
The tragic event was caused by a towboat called the Mauvilla when the pilot of the boat got lost in the fog that early morning striking the railroad bridge just minutes before the Amtrak Sunset Limited came across the tracks out of line and causing the train to plummet into the cold waters below.
The Ramona Doyle along with other units of the Mobile fire department responded to the call that early morning. The Coast Guard, helicopters, boats, and emergency personnel from the surrounding area helped rescue people from the cold dark waters.
The National Safety Board, FBI, and the Mobile County District Attorney's Office all conducted a criminal investigation into the cause of the disaster. The derailment of the Amtrak is the worst train wreck recorded in America's history when 47 people lost their lives that early morning.
There is a memorial located on the east end of the Mobile River Delta Bayou. The disaster of the Amtrak Sunset Limited was the first and last major emergency disaster call the Ramona Doyle made before it was decommissioned.
The Ramona Doyle was decommissioned ten years after the 1993 triadic train disaster in 2003. The fire station was torn down and the fire tuck taken off duty. A fire station has never been rebuilt but a new fireboat was commissioned in 2006 called the Phoenix.
The Phoenix is docked at the Coast Guard Base near Brookley Air field. The crew of the Phoenix is located at fire station 11 located on Broad Street. When the fire boat receives a fire or rescue call the crew members have to drive the fire truck to the Coast Guard Base and then launch the boat to make the emergency call.
The crew of the Phoenix waits for the city of Mobile to find the money in the budget to build a new fire station to house the crew and dock the boat near the Mobile River that runs at the foot of downtown Mobile.
Note from the author: Darrell Farmer who is the author of this article was also a crew member of the Ramona Doyle when the Amtrak Sunset Limited plummeted into the cold waters of the Mobile Delta Bayou. However on the morning of the Amtrak disaster Darrell Farmer was off duty but he still remembers the details of what happen on that triadic day.
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