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‘We were the lucky ones;’ Springfield woman thankful to be home after Amtrak derailment in Missouri

SPRINGFIELD — Amtrak says there were about 275 passengers onboard when one of their passenger trains hit a dump truck near Mendon, Missouri a week ago. One of those passengers lives in Springfield.

Vernie Williams told News Center 7′s James Rider that she was on her way back from a trip to see the Grand Canyon at the time of the crash.

“As beautiful as the Grand Canyon was, it was as awful as the train wreck,” she said.

Williams said she was looking out the window, enjoying the view, when she felt a bump. She described it as like “a car hitting you from behind.” It was followed by an “awful” sound coming from the rails.

She said she then saw what she thought was smoke, but soon realized was actually the dust from the gravel.

>> Amtrak derailment: 4 dead after train strikes dump truck in Missouri

Williams described the crash as pandemonium.

“To experience — I kept saying, ‘Oh no, oh no, oh no’ and I thought about my children,” she said.

When she finally got out of the train, Williams said she was panicked and looking for her brother.

“When I saw my brother, I said we were the lucky ones. We got out alive, some people died,” she said.

Amtrak said the four people died and about 150 others were injured in the crash. Williams said she’s still recovering from her injuries, which didn’t set in until the next day.

“The initial day I didn’t feel anything, but my index finger hurt. It was funny because the next day I could hardly walk,” she said.

Williams credited the people of Mendon for helping prevent a worse outcome for many.

“The town was absolutely amazing. It just seemed like everyone on the train had someone with them,” she said.

>> Wapakoneta man shares family’s story of hope after deadly Amtrak train crash in Missouri

She was not the only survivor to credit the people of the Missouri town. Dr. Joshua Steinke, of Wapakoneta, said 16 of his family members were on the train.

After the crash, Steinke said hundreds of local people, farmers, families and first responders ran to help the passengers and used their personal cars and resources to make sure the victims were fed, cared for and even taken to the hospital if needed.

“While a tragedy, this is an incredible story of small-town people helping small-town people,” he wrote in a social media post.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

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