On Monday afternoon, Shannon Jacobs was sitting on the front porch of her home here with her daughter and 1-year old grandson when she noticed an Amtrak train coming by.
It was a familiar sight for Jacobs, a resident of the area since 2017. She lives roughly a half-mile from a crossing and usually notices the trains. There were also dump trucks throughout the day Monday that had been heading over the crossing, bringing materials from the levee.
She didn’t notice anything unusual — at first. Then she described seeing a “great big cloud of dirt” near the tracks.
“I thought, ‘Well that’s weird.’ And then all of a sudden, it was probably 10 seconds, I heard the ba-boom and then watched the train roll over and I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Jacobs, 41, said as she recalled the event from near the crash site Monday evening.
Three people were killed and dozens hurt in the collision, first reported around 12:45 p.m., after a passenger train bound to Chicago from Los Angeles struck a dump truck at the crossing southwest of the town of Mendon, about two hours northeast of Kansas City. At the scene Monday, emergency crews were still working around the wreckage hours later to survey the damage and arrange cleanup.
Jacobs said her first instinct was to call 911. Because she was watching her grandson, she said she was unable to head over to help. She had her daughter call her husband, Jared, and her son and father-in-law, who had been working in the area at the time, to make sure they hadn’t been involved with the crash — and was relieved to learn that they weren’t.
“They were the first on scene, actually,” Jacobs said.
More than 200 people were on board the train at the time of the crash, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Two people on the train were killed, and the third fatality was the operator of the dump truck the train struck. Authorities called in a massive emergency response Monday to remove the survivors from the area, bringing them to hospitals and a recovery center set up in a nearby high school gymnasium.
The crash came as some neighbors had reported safety concerns about train crossings there. Steep inclines provide a dangerous intersection for heavy equipment, said Mike Spencer, a local farmer.
“I was certain that this was gonna happen,” said Spencer, who was also visiting the site of the crash Monday. “It was just a matter of time.”