Singaporean on board derailed Amtrak train suffers only minor injuries

Singaporean on board derailed Amtrak train suffers only minor injuries
Emergency workers look through the remains of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 13, 2015. Rescue workers on Wednesday sifted through twisted metal and debris from the wreck of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia, killing six people and injuring scores of others, as investigators began reviewing data to determine the cause of an accident.

When the US train suddenly flipped, he was thrown halfway down the aisle of the carriage.

Singaporean James Ong, 29, was at the connector between the second and third carriages answering a phone call.

Flying across the carriage turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Mr Ong found that he was less seriously injured than other passengers who had been in their seats.

"I was incredibly lucky to be standing in the aisle when it happened," said Mr Ong, who works in a technology company in New York.

At about 9.30pm on Tuesday, an Amtrak train travelling from Washington to New York hurtled off the tracks. The derailment tore passenger carriages apart, sending seven of them careening off the tracks.

At least seven people were killed and more than 200 injured.

Mr Ong told The New Paper in a phone interview about his close brush with death while taking the Amtrak train back to New York after a business trip to the US state of Pennsylvania.

He was answering a call when he heard the train horn blaring.

As he headed back to his carriage, the train suddenly tilted and the lights went out.

"I felt the train flip to the side. Everything went black and the power went out. I flew halfway down the carriage, which turned out to be fortuitous.

"If I had been in my seat, I could have been pinned down by something heavy," he said.

As Mr Ong struggled to his feet, he found himself on the ceiling of the train carriage, which had overturned. He checked himself for serious injuries.

"I felt mostly okay. I still had all my limbs. I was bleeding from my head," he said.

"I am definitely in more pain today. I probably didn't feel the pain then because of the adrenaline."

He saw many passengers moaning in agony as they were pinned down by the seats.

RIPPED APART

The first train carriage was completely ripped apart and the second and third were badly mangled. Smoke was coming out from the third carriage.

Amid the chaos, his only thought was to try to help the trapped passengers.

"Many of them had it worse than I did," he said.

Within 20 minutes of the incident, help arrived as firefighters climbed into the carriage using a ladder.

Mr Ong and other less injured passengers offered to help and were told to help find women and children who were not stuck or pinned down by objects.

They soon realised that there was little they could do to help, which was one of the most tragic things about the incident, he said.

He tried to help a woman who was pinned down on the chest by her seat.

"Some of us tried to rip the cushions out of the seat so she could breathe, but she was still stuck. We tried to pull the chair away, but we couldn't do it.

"At some point, we realised this was not going to happen and we had to move on," he said.

Mr Ong managed to round up four people in the carriage who were not trapped. The evacuated passengers ended up at the casualty collection point.

"When I came out, I knew I was bleeding from the top of my left eye. I felt some pain on my left rib, but didn't see any bruises. There was also some pain on my left calf, but I felt perfectly fine otherwise.

"A lot of the passengers were coming out on stretchers," Mr Ong said.

He was taken to a hospital in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, where he was put through some tests and jabs.

The doctors found he had bruises, a laceration and a closed head injury, caused by a hard blow to the head from striking an object without cracking the skull.

DISCHARGED

Mr Ong was discharged at about 3am the next day. But he got home only at about 10am because the Amtrak crisis response team "fell short".

He said that Amtrak had promised to make the necessary arrangements to take them home to their doorsteps, but failed to deliver.

"The biggest relief after the 12-hour ordeal was being greeted by the Red Cross disaster relief team at Penn Station (in New York)," he added.

He has contacted his family in Singapore, who were not aware he had been in the derailed train, to tell them about his close shave.

"I'm just focused on full recovery. I'm much better now and am trying not to think too much about the derailment," Mr Ong said.

"I just remember that at the moment when I saw the train tilt, it just felt very unreal."

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