“I’m here. Grab a hand”: Scouts share stories of derailment and acts of heroism
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Thursday we heard from a group of local Boy Scouts who are being hailed as heroes for their efforts to help people after their train crashed and derailed in Missouri Monday.
The scouts were heading back from a wilderness backpacking trip in New Mexico when their Amtrak train hit a dump truck at an uncontrolled crossing. Three passengers and the dump truck driver were killed.
Two of the adults who accompanied the scouts on the trip were hospitalized. One was released from the hospital Thursday and is en route back home. A GoFundMe account was created to help the other. According to the GoFundMe page, the father of two of the scouts suffered broken vertebrae in the crash.
We spoke with scouts at a home on the north side of Appleton. Eleven met with us to share their experience being in the crash and their acts of heroism that followed. Some details were held back out of respect to the families who lost loved ones in the crash.
They told us 15 of the 16 scouts who went to New Mexico were on the train. One of the scouts went home from the scouting trip with a parent. As they gathered with us, they shared personal stories.
Many described being in complete shock as their train car started to flip over, not knowing exactly what was taking place.
“I have a very distinct memory of being in the air right before I hit the ground thinking, there’s no way this is real, there’s no way this is actually happening to me, because this is how people die. I could die right now, and that can’t be happening to me,” Boy Scout Henry Gudzik said.
“The whole thing was full of dust and smoke and the chairs were everywhere and stuff was everywhere,” Boy Scout Eli Skrypczak described. “I thought this can’t be real. Like, this is a dream. I’m like, what’s going on? This isn’t real. And I got up and those emergency windows are very hard to open. They took longer than they really should have.”
“We were popping open emergency windows to let people out -- which are usually on the side of the train but were now up, so we had to pop the windows open and help people out, carry out people who couldn’t do it themselves,” Boy Scout Isaiah Awe said.
“Once we got out, we started pulling scouts out. And the windows were pretty high up, so we kind of just put some chairs down, put some cushions down. People climbed up, and we started getting people out, making sure they were OK and safe,” Eli said.
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The scouts said instincts and training set in just seconds after the crash as they knew they had to act because others were injured and confused as to what to do.
“We pretty much were just looking around and like, OK, we’re in better condition than some people are, so it’s our job, our responsibility to help the people who can’t,” Boy Scout Logan Poelzer told us.
Another scout told us it was emotional support some people needed most.
“There are so many people that are nervous, that are panicking and just don’t know what to do and how to act. Just to have somebody there to say, ‘Hey, I’m here. Grab a hand. There’s a safe spot you can go to over here and we can get you out of this.’ That just makes so much of a difference for people,” Henry said.
One of the scouts, though, was trapped in a bathroom on the train for 30 minutes. “Eventually two gentlemen helped me out of the car and just said, don’t look down, which was just scary for me,” Boy Scout Dean Seaborn said.
Some of the scouts suffered minor injuries. Everyone was taken to a hospital to be checked out.
“I can say personally, and I think for a lot of the boys, we don’t really think of ourselves as heroes. We were just in the right place at the right time,” Isaiah said.
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