'We were standing on the windows': Passenger recounts Amtrak train derailing in Missouri
Diane Couture was a passenger on that train when it hit a dump truck at a rural railroad crossing and derailed near Mendon, Missouri, about 100 miles east of Kansas City.
She and her husband had been celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with a trip to the Grand Canyon and were headed home to New Hampshire. The train, an Amtrak Southwest Chief, left Kansas City en route to Chicago earlier in the day Monday. In full, the Southwest Chief route runs from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Couture said she never imagined their anniversary trip would end like this. She was in the dining car when she heard a loud noise.
“We thought the car was just going to wobble a bit and then keep going — but then it stopped and turned on its side,” Couture told Nexstar’s WDAF Monday night.
SLIDESHOW: Amtrak train derailment in Missouri
“The people on our left-hand side flew across and hit us, and then we were standing on the windows on the right-hand side of the car.”
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said the train was eight cars long, and seven of them derailed.
“Two gentlemen in the front came up, stacked a bunch of things and popped out the window and literally pulled us out by our hands,” Couture said. “So then we were all sitting on top of the train.”
Soon, Couture said two other men came and helped people get down off the train cars and onto the tracks below.
Videos from the scene show dozens of passengers sitting on the side of overturned cars and walking around the tracks.
Couture said first responders were there within minutes to help those who were injured.
MSHP said three people were killed in the crash; two were on the train and another was in the dump truck. The Chariton County ambulance service confirmed to WDAF that at least 50 were injured.
Amtrak said there were 243 passengers and 12 crew members on the train at the time.
Officials brought school buses to the scene, and Couture said they took everyone who wasn’t injured to the local high school in Mendon.
“Tons of volunteers and anything you could imagine, they had for us,” she said.
Hours later, dozens of passengers remain at the high school, getting help from community volunteers and waiting for news of what’s next.
Couture admits it was a scary experience to cap off their trip, especially knowing there were passengers and crew around her who suffered injuries. But she’s grateful she and her husband are safe.