Jul. 3—When they boarded the train Monday morning in Kansas City, Mo., Westover couple Jeff and Mary Ann Davis said their biggest concern was the train was running more than three hours behind, leaving them less than 45 minutes—if there were no delays—to make a connection with their train from Chicago to Connellsville, Pa.
Jeff, who owns local business DHI /Davis Home Inspections, had just celebrated a birthday a few days before and the couple was returning from a weekend trip to see Kansas City. They were due home Tuesday morning.
Around an hour and a half after leaving KC, they knew they were definitely not going to make that connection. What they did know was they were both happy to be alive and relatively uninjured.
In the end, they wouldn't arrive home until Thursday evening.
The Davises, who had traveled via train many times before, said they had just settled into their seats in the sixth car of the eight-car Amtrak and were getting ready to start doing some binge watching.
"All of the sudden it was like, wham !, it was just like a big jolt, " Mary Ann said.
Jeff was standing up putting a bag in the overhead bin when the train collided with a truck that was crossing the tracks.
"When it hit, I was like — 'we just hit something at a crossing, ' " he said. "I could tell by the way it felt. For some reason I said 'We are gonna derail.' But I didn't expect it to tip over. Two seconds later, I'm just laying there because stuff is on top of me."
"People were on top of you, " Mary Ann added.
Mary Ann said because of the jolt, her head was already close to the seat ahead of her.
"As we started tipping I just grabbed the seat ahead of me and hung on for dear life, " she said. "I didn't have time to wrap my arms around the chair so I'm hanging on to it with just my fingers, but I did manage to not fall on anybody, and not fall and hurt anybody or myself."
Jeff said he has some minor injuries like bruises due to people falling on him and is feeling a little sore, but overall is OK.
Mary Ann said once the car was on its side and she was able to find Jeff and get him unburied, they started helping others.
"All the passengers just started helping one another, " she said. "Jeff found my other shoe, I had lost it, and he found my purse. We just kind of gathered things and found owners."
The couple said for the most part passengers were able to remain calm and they were able to push a window out and climb out of the car. From there they were able to scale down some of the equipment and hoses that connect the cars.
"We just kind of got out and walked away, " they said. "After we got out we could kind of see the extent of everything and all the cars were on their side."
Initially after the accident, the couple said nearby locals immediately came to assist the passengers, providing triage, and taking the Davises and other passengers to an area high school and hospitals.
"The people of Mendon and Macon, Missouri, were wonderful—they were outpouring, " Jeff said. "They brought us care packages and meals and provided us with shirts and stuff."
The couple said they received a call Friday that their baggage had been found among the wreckage and was being sent back to them.
"It was an experience I do not want to repeat, " Mary Ann said. "It was honestly one of my worst nightmares, but you know I lived through it."
Mary Ann said the only thing she knew to do in that moment was reach out to God and just kept repeating, "Jesus help us."
"That's the only thing I knew to do, " she said. "This situation was out of control, but He is in control, so I just reached out to Him."
Dozens were sent to area hospitals with minor to severe injuries and three passengers of the train were killed in the accident, along with the driver of the truck the train collided with.
Jeff said he remembered sitting near the now-deceased passengers during their three hour wait at the train station in Kansas City.
"The older gentleman was there with his family watching the grandkids play, " he said. "And the two women were in the general vicinity and I was watching them talking.
"We didn't communicate with them, but we saw them. And so that makes it a little more real, when you had just seen them, " he said.
The couple said while they will travel by train again in the future, they are going to hold off on an upcoming train trip they had planned to Denver.
"I think we'll change our minds on that one, " they said.