Commuters help people out of derailed train, comfort victims
DUPONT, Wash. (AP) - Daniel Konzelman was one of thousands of commuters barreling along a highway outside Seattle on Monday morning when the emergency response training he learned as an Eagle Scout kicked in.
He and a friend pulled over after an Amtrak passenger train hurtled off an overpass and crashed into vehicles on Interstate 5 below, killing three people and injuring dozens of others, officials said. They rushed to help, running along the tracks and over the bridge to get to the scene.
Some train cars had their roofs ripped off or were turned upside down. Others were turned sideways on the bridge. Konzelman, 24, and his friend clambered into train cars to look for victims.
"I just wanted to help people because I would want people to help me," he said.
The scene was grisly, with some people pinned under the train and others who appeared to be dead. If people could move and seemed stable, Konzelman said he helped them climb out of the train. If they looked seriously hurt, he tried to offer comfort by talking to them to calm them down.
They stayed to help for nearly two hours.
"I wasn't scared. I knew what to expect. ... I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. I saw a little bit of both," Konzelman said.
Dr. Nathan Selden, a neurosurgeon at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, said he and his son drove through the accident scene while traveling north to visit Seattle. The doctor asked if he could help and was ushered to a medical triage tent in the highway median.
The most seriously injured had already been whisked away, but the patients he helped appeared to have open head wounds and skull, pelvic or leg fractures, as well as small cuts and neck sprains, he said.
He called it a miracle that an infant child he saw from the scene appeared completely unharmed.
The clamor from the crash and the wail of sirens drew the attention of people living nearby. Some stood outside in their pajamas, illuminated by the emergency lights that bounced off the wet roadway. Others snapped photos while emergency workers scrambled to set up medical tents and triage the injured.
About 35 military personnel from nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord were among the first to respond to the derailment. Base spokesman Gary Dangerfield said paramedics, firefighters and others from the base regularly train with local authorities so they are ready to help in emergencies.
Witnesses said some military personnel ran to the cars stopped along the side of the road, gathering first-aid kits, towels and other items that could help with the rescue efforts.
"When we first started pulling up, I heard yelling and screaming and sirens forever," said Corban Rakestraw, who was driving to work when he came upon the crash.
The train was making its first-ever run along a faster new route between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. Seventy-seven passengers and seven crew members were aboard.