A mother aboard a train derailment in Mendon, Missouri, climbed on top of the wreckage on Monday and went from wagon to wagon, screaming at every window while searching for her three children, according to her son, Dax Mcdonald.
The Amtrak train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when it hit a dump truck about 100 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri. Seven cars derailed with hundreds of passengers inside. Four passengers were killed and 150 others injured, some in critical condition, according to a press briefing Wednesday from the University of Kansas Health System.
McDonald said he first heard a bang.
“Honestly, I thought at first it was just going to be a big delay,” McDonald said during the briefing. “I’ve heard of trains hitting carriages before, but when I started to feel the train start to rock, I saw the carriage in front of us start to spin or fall over. That’s when I kind of knew it was going from a delay to a life or death situation.
McDonald, of Phoenix, Ariz., was traveling with his mother and two sisters from Arizona to Iowa to visit family for July 4, KMBC-TV reported. While McDonald sat on the right side of the train and emerged from the derailment virtually unscathed, his sister, Samantha McDonald, sat on the left side of the train.
“When the accident happened,” she said, “I was on the left side of the car we were in, and I was thrown across the other side of the car, hitting my head, scratching my face and hitting the right side of my body against the wagon. … So because of that, I was bleeding on the right side of my face.
She was taken to Moberly Regional Medical Center in Moberly, Missouri, for a knee scan and x-rays.
“Everything cleared up. I’m fine, obviously – just a little bumped up,” Samantha McDonald said.
Dax McDonald recalled that the person in front of him had a seizure and people immediately called for help with broken limbs or unable to move.
Dax McDonald said he was looking for a way out.
“We kind of realized that the two exits at the front and back of the train were no longer usable,” he said. “The only real releases, we realized after a while, were directly from us.”
Survivors who were able to climb out of the train stood over the derailed cars and helped pull others out of the windows.
“I just remember the man who was able to help me off the train was actually, his whole face was scratched, kind of like the side of my face,” Samantha McDonald said. “It was very, very traumatic to see this in person and to see this actually happen in real life.”
Matt Daugherty, director of business development for Life Flight, said Mendon being rural, many of the first responders were nearby volunteer firefighters who left their daily jobs to help.
Daugherty said 11 helicopters responded to the derailment, with the first arriving within 20 minutes to help those most injured.
According to Daugherty, most of the injuries included head injuries, broken bones and debris cuts.
Dan Manley, assistant fire chief from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, helped coordinate resources and the response to the derailment. He said several agencies in the region are equipped to respond to derailments as they have received special training in rail passenger rescue.
“I’m so grateful to the whole community of Mendon who came out,” Dax McDonald said. “We went to high school – they already had drinks, food and water. They had the whole gymnasium set up. The whole town is out.
Dax McDonald said he saw farmers driving a tractor through a field towards the train to help people. He said the community had brought crowbars and ladders to help people get off the train.
Samantha McDonald, who is a pre-med student at the University of Arizona, was asked if this event changed her mind about joining the medical field.
“I think that kind of stuff rekindles the fire to be on the teams that are able to come out there and were on stage and were absolutely outstanding,” she said.
This story was originally published by the Kansas Reflector, an affiliate of the United States Newsroom.