Rescue Workers Grilled in Derailment Probe

Investigators check background of firefighter, repeatedly interview thosewho responded to wreck site

Callahan says the FBI is also still looking at subscribers to a railroad-buff magazine that recently ran an article describing how saboteurs derailed a train in Nevada in 1939.

Investigators' suspicions of rescue workers may be further bolstered by the fact that the "Sons of the Gestapo" letters found at the scene railed about the Waco showdown between federal agents and David Koresh's Branch Davidians. And, though the letter was printed in many daily newspapers, no one commented that it described how the Waco fire started and spread--the kind of details that might interest a firefighter.

FBI agents have interviewed some Buckeye and Tonopah firefighters as many as seven times, asking the same things over and over. Feathered into the interviews were questions about whether the derailment could have been caused by wanna-be heroes.

"One of the FBI agents asked one of my EMTs if he thought any of our people would have done it to get some publicity and be able to work a wreck," Lanford continues, "and he said, 'Heck, no!'"

About 5 a.m. on October 9, three and a half hours after the wreck, a Buckeye Rural volunteer firefighter named Lynn Bartley was flagged down by a group of passengers outside a coach car that was off the tracks but still upright.

"The sons of bitches tried to kill us," Bartley says one woman told her. She says the woman led Bartley into the car to show her where the "Sons of the Gestapo" note had been taped to the wall. Bartley took some photographs and notified FBI agents.

Apparently, someone had slipped onto the train in the confusion after the wreck and taped it there.

But getting to the site was no casual matter. Deputies and firefighters had to four-wheel alongside the tracks for more than seven miles; many of their vehicles got stuck along the way. And the surrounding desert offered no great places to hide other than the darkness of night. Other rescuers who were at the scene doubt that anyone could have walked into their midst, put up the note, then faded back into the landscape without being noticed.

One of the first firefighters to reach the train, however, reported seeing a mystery truck on his way in.

A Buckeye Rural firefighter, Scott Shannon Bembow, says he saw a two-tone pickup on the railroad right of way, far beyond the graded road.

"It was coming out of the scene, and we were going into the scene," says Bembow, "and it had to pull over because I was in a two-wheel-drive vehicle."

The driver was a white male in his late 20s or early 30s, wearing a baseball cap and a mustache. "I stopped because he had his window down," Bembow continues. "All he said was, 'It's about two more miles.' And then he kind of gunned it and took off."

Bembow had two other firefighters with him on the truck.
"The strange thing about it," he says, "is that nobody in front of us from our battalion saw the truck, and the people behind us never saw the truck, either."

Bembow says he didn't think much of the encounter at the time, because "we had no idea it was a crime scene. We were assuming the train just fell off the tracks."

Later, the encounter seemed more significant to him, and he related it to the FBI.

"The FBI didn't seem interested in it," he says.
FBI spokesman Callahan would not comment on reports of the pickup truck.

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