Commuters rush to the Amtrak train wreck to help the survivors

DUPONT, Wash. – A neurosurgeon and an Eagle Scout. A college student, and military medics.

Commuters and workers both rushed to survivors when an Amtrak passenger train derailed Monday south of Seattle and lifted from an overpass on a busy interstate below.

Oregon Health & Science University neurosurgeon Dr. Nathan Selden was on his way to Seattle with his college-age son and when they came to the fatal wreck near DuPont, Washington.

It was the first mass casualty event, Selden had seen, and he was surprised to see that a child involved in the wreck seemed to be miraculously unharmed.

At least three people were killed and others were seriously injured, authorities said. Selden was ushered in with a medical triage tent to help tend to survivors as his son began to run supplies from the fire engine to the medical tent.

The most seriously injured people were all taken to the hospitals at the time that he arrived, Selden said, and the victims which he judged had sprains, open wounds, skull and pelvis fractures and other injuries.

He welcomed the first responders as knowledgeable, involved and compassionate. Trained professionals and non-trained helpers worked together “amazingly well”, he said.

“We were very close to the trains, and it was a chaotic scene, but a scene of complete purpose. Everyone knew what the goal was,” Selden said.

Daniel Konzelman was also driving in the neighborhood with a friend, when they saw the derailment. She pulled over and rushed to the wreckage, running along the track and over the bridge to the scene.

Some of the train cars had their roofs torn off or were turned. Others were shot on the bridge. Konzelman, 24, and his friend climbed into the train cars to look for victims.

“I just wanted to help people, because I would want people to help me,” he said.

A few years earlier Konzelman had become an Eagle Scout and scout training in first aid and emergency response kicked in, ” he said.

The scene was horrific, with a number of people pinned under the train, and others who appeared to be dead. If people could move and seemed to be stable, Konzelman said he helped them climb out of the train. If they looked seriously injured, he tried to offer comfort by talking to them to calm them down.

They stayed to help for almost two hours.

“I was not afraid. I knew what to expect. … I prepared for the worst and hope for the best. I saw a little bit of both,” Konzelman said.

The train was his very first run along a faster new route between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle.

About 35 military personnel from nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord were one of the first to respond to the derailment. Base spokesman Gary Dangerfield ambulance, fire brigade and others from the base regularly to train with the local authorities, they are ready to help in emergency situations.

Witnesses said some soldiers walked up to the cars stopped along the side of the road, collecting first-aid kits, towels and other items that you can help in the relief efforts.

Wendy Simmons arrived, people were helping the injured and saw the first reactions of climbing into the train cars dangling over the edge of the overpass. She said people drive also stop to help.

“People were pulling of first aid kits from their cars — put jackets on people,” she told Seattle-area television station KCPQ.


Ho reported from Seattle. Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, Le Phuong in Seattle and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this report.


For the full coverage of the deadly derailment, click here: .

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