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Passengers helped each other climb out of train cars following deadly derailment near Mendon

By Emily Rittman

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    MENDON, Missouri (KCTV) — Three people have died and approximately 50 people were injured after an Amtrak train hit a dump truck and derailed southwest of Mendon, Missouri.

According to Missouri State Highway Patrol, the truck driver and two people who were on the train died after seven cars derailed.

“I send my thoughts, prayers and deep sympathy for those who lost family members and all the passengers who were injured,” passenger Sherri Schwanz said.

School buses transported passengers from the derailment to the Northwestern R-1 High School in Mendon.

Passengers told KCTV5 News the response from first responders and the surrounding communities was overwhelming. Many travelers had never heard of Mendon until Monday, when the people who live there rushed to help them.

Passenger Rob Nightingale shared video of the moments after he and other passengers crawled out of a derailed Amtrak car. Passengers could be seen sitting or standing on overturned cars.

“We are standing on a train processing what just happened,” passenger Antwoine Patton said. “Helicopters coming to bring everyone who was severely injured out.”

Passenger Larry Brown was on the last car.

“I was fully aware that we were going over,” Brown said. “My side of the window is now the floor. The other side of the train is now the ceiling.”

Passenger Jane Carreon and her father were traveling together. They were walking to an observation deck when the collision occurred.

“There was this huge bump and I was launched forward,” Carreon said. “I’m thankful for that because, when I turned back later, it had been completely crushed. Kind of terrifying realizing just how close I was to not being here right now.”

Several passengers say they first felt a jolt when the train struck a dump truck around 12:43 p.m. at an uncontrolled crossing southwest of Mendon. When they emerged from their cars, some passengers saw that, tragically, three people did not survive.

“Heartbreak and the tears,” Schwanz said.

Ambulances filled the high school parking lot Monday as it turned onto a triage location to rush anyone who needed treatment to area hospitals.

“The humanity that came through with every single person,” Schwanz said. “I can’t tell you what that meant to me.”

Passengers worked together to help each other out of the derailed cars and to safety.

“We tumbled upon each other,” Schwanz said. “It took several minutes to get our bearings. As soon as we did, there were already people saying, ‘When you can get up, come this way. I can help you out.’”

Brown said that, in his car, they took the strips off the windows and were able to climb out. He said several Boy Scouts who were on the train helped older passengers get out.

“Very mature for their age,” Brown said. “Whatever they are teaching them in the scouts, it paid off today.”

Several organizations, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army, and local volunteers brought food, water and medical supplies to the high school to help the passengers until transportation and lodging could be arranged.

“They tell me we had more people on the train then they have in this little community,” Brown said. “The people here were amazing.”

The NTSB is launching a go-team with 14 members to investigate the Amtrak derailment. They are expected to arrive Thursday.

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