A passenger aboard the Amtrak train that crashed into a truck in Missouri on Monday and derailed, killing four people, described the accident as “hell on earth.”
Charles Hoffman was in one of the carriages that overturned at 12:43 PM. CT on the trip between Los Angeles and Chicago.
“I was backing up so that was a blessing because I didn’t fly forward from the impact, but all I heard was a bam, bang, boom,” he said. “And all of a sudden the train fell down, which I thought was probably when it went off track.”
“And then it was like, bam, bam, bam, bam, driving over the wooden sleepers.”
“It flipped, fell to the left and it skidded, skidded, skidded forever. Anyway, I was looking forward to it.”
Hoffman said his window had been smashed and rocks poured in from the tracks.
Amtrak said the train was carrying about 243 passengers and 12 crew members when it collided with a dump truck at an intersection. Three passengers and the driver of the truck were killed and more than 100 were injured.
Hoffman said that in the moments after the crash, he tried to orientate himself and see through the dust that filled the carriage.
“All I heard was, ‘Are you okay? Is anyone here?” And I’m like, ‘I’m here,'” he said. “I had a long way to go to get out, but I just rolled my way out. I’m a big boy and I pushed my way up. I felt like I had the power of Hercules with my adrenaline pumping.”
Hoffman went to the top of the overturned carriage and said he was trapped there for a while until onlookers showed him how to climb off the exposed wheels.
He was taken to hospital where staff tested him for heart problems because his heart rate was so high.
After a day in the emergency department, Hoffman said he was finally home.
“All night while I was trying to fall asleep I kept having flashbacks, and like images and things going through my head and making it really hard to sleep,” he said.
“I will say that for years, many, many years I will never be on a train again.”
“I feel blessed to be alive, but I’m bumped, bruised and a little tattered and sore.”
National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy said on Tuesday a team of 15 had arrived in Missouri to investigate the collision.
Homendy said they were downloading the “event recorder,” which would provide information such as the train’s speed and when the driver blew the horn, and had begun interviewing some of the 12 crew members on board.