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 at least six 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.
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.
“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-eight passengers and five crew members were aboard.
Wendy Simmons arrived as people were helping the injured and saw first responders climbing into the train cars dangling over the edge of the overpass. She said people driving by also were stopping to help.
“People were pulling first aid kits out of their cars – putting jackets on people,” she told Seattle-area television station KCPQ.