Amtrak train derailed in Missouri

An Amtrak train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago with more than 200 passengers on board derailed Monday afternoon after hitting a dump truck at a level crossing in northern Missouri.

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Samantha McDonald and her brother Dax were traveling with other family members from Arizona to Iowa when the Amtrak train they were on hit a dump truck, causing the cars to fall over and land sideways .

“When the accident happened I was on the left side of the carriage we were in and was thrown across the other side of the carriage, hitting my head, scratching my face and hitting my right side of my body against the train car,” she said.

McDonald was bleeding from the right side of her head and face, she said during a matinee medical update hosted by the University of Kansas Health System who discussed the medical response to the fatal train derailment.

Four people were killed and about 150 were injured in the crash Monday afternoon at an uncontrolled railroad crossing near Mendon, Missouri.

“I remember when I was up and looking around, there were people bleeding and everyone was shaken up,” McDonald said.

The entire face of the man who helped her off the train was scratched, she said.

“It was very, very traumatic to see this in person and to see this happen in real life,” she said.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Train was derailed Monday afternoon, June 27, 2022, after colliding with a dump truck at an intersection northeast of Kansas City near the town of Mendon, killing several people and causing dozens of injuries. Jill Toyoshiba [email protected]

Dump truck dust cloud

Dax McDonald, who was on the right side of the train, said that before the crash he had seen a cloud of dust from trucks traveling perpendicular to the train.

“I was just thinking: It’s a bit strange that there are these two large dump trucks moving quite quickly, perpendicular to the train,” he said. “That’s when I heard the first shot and I was like oh, we definitely hit something.”

At first he just thought they were going to be delayed. But he started to feel the train rock, then he saw the car in front of them start to fall.

“That’s when I knew it had gone from a time limit to, you know, a life or death situation,” he said.

After the train stopped, Dax McDonald shot a video from inside the train and shared it on social media. He said people were calling and checking to see if other passengers were okay. Some of the older passengers were dazed and unsure if they could move or thought they had broken limbs. He thinks someone in front of him was having a seizure.

As people looked to get out, they quickly realized the only way out was through the windows, which were about 10 feet high. People inside and outside the train assisted in removing those who could be moved.

He and his sister were traveling with another sister and their mother, who were in another carriage at the time of the accident. Their mother had gotten out before them and she was going from car to car screaming to see which one they were in.

Samantha McDonald is the only one in her family to have been injured. Emergency crews placed her in the ‘yellow’ triage group and then she was placed on a bus to Moberly Regional Hospital. There she received a red triage card indicating that she needed immediate care. She was sent for a CT scan and then an X-ray of the knee.

“I’m fine, obviously, but just a little stoned,” she said.

In this photo provided by Dax McDonald, debris lies near train tracks after an Amtrak passenger train derailed near Mendon, Mo., Monday, June 27, 2022. The Southwest Leader, traveling from Los Angeles in Chicago, was carrying about 243 passengers when it collided with a dump truck near Mendon, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said. Dax McDonald PA

Lessons learned from Joplin

Matt Daugherty, business development manager for LifeFlight Eagle in Kansas City, said about 16 helicopters were headed for the crash, though commanders on scene determined not all of them were needed.

“I think we ended up with 11 helicopters in total that actually responded to the scene,” he said. “Yet the 16 helicopters en route represent more than half of Missouri State’s medical helicopters heading in that direction. So that’s a pretty incredible answer.

A medical helicopter based in Chillicothe, Missouri, was the first helicopter on the scene. It arrived 20 minutes after being dispatched shortly after 1pm. This pilot provided air-to-ground communications to help land additional helicopters. Medical teams helped with the initial triage and care of seriously injured patients, Daugherty said.

The medical helicopter’s response to the derailment built on lessons learned when an EF-5 tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, Daugherty said.

“In this case, we had a lot of air ambulances that were available as soon as the storm passed, but in this particular case the coordination between resources was not as good as it could be,” he said.

Air ambulances can get critically injured patients to trauma centers faster, and they can spread patients across multiple hospitals so that no one facility is responsible for taking all the patients, he said.

Meanwhile, rescue crews, many of them volunteer firefighters from surrounding communities, responded to the derailment.

Dax McDonald said he was grateful for how the Mendon community responded to the tragedy.

“Everyone in this little town came out and was like coming in with crowbars and a ladder and whatever they could carry to help people get off the train,” he said. “It was just amazing to see everyone coming together.”

This story was originally published June 29, 2022 1:16 p.m.

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Robert A. Cronkleton rises very early in the morning to bring readers the latest on crime, transportation and dawn weather. He has been with The Star since 1987 and now contributes to data communications and video editing. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Rockhurst College, where he studied Communications and Computer Science.