He was on his way to work when he saw the crash scene — and jumped out to help
In the moments after Monday’s train derailment outside of Seattle, Washington, traffic came to a halt. There were train cars on the embankment, train cars dangling from the overpass, and train cars upside down in the middle of Interstate 5. That when those people who Mr. Rogers once famously referred to as “the helpers” jumped out of their vehicles and ran to the scene to see what they could do. One of the helpers was former Eagle Scout Daniel Konzelman, who had been driving that morning with his girlfriend.
Konzelman was heading to work in Olympia when the accident happened. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Konzelman said that he noticed the train was going unusually fast: “I’d never seen a train going that fast in the past. I drive that stretch every day.” Late last night, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that the train had been going 80 miles an hour in a 30 mile an hour zone.
Konzelman, an Eagle Scout who has first-aid training, and his girlfriend, Alicia Hoverson, pulled over and ran onto the tracks. after helping some injured passengers out of the train and down to the highway, Konzelman went back up and climbed into one of the turned over train cars to look for more victims.
“We were both in like in our dress clothes for work, and had a little bit of emergency response gear like a flashlight and some boots. So we threw those on and ran down to the tracks as fast as we could. And nobody was there, nobody was leading or responding to the incident,” Konzelman tells CBS News.
He found two people who couldn’t be moved, so he calmed them until other helpers were on the bridge. Then he and a police officer started climbing through the overturned train cars on the I5 roadway.
In total, the couple helped 15 people get to safety.
“A lot of them had broken ankles. I think they were in so much shock they couldn’t feel anything. Almost all of them had head injuries and a lot of blood flowing,” he said. As they continued to search, they found four fatalities, one man who was so badly in shock that “he was walking around in circles,” and another passenger who was alive but pinned beneath one of the cars.
“There’s not a lot you can do with somebody pinned beneath the train. I talked to them and tried to calm them down and comfort them. I just told him, man, you’re looking so good … you’re doing great, just relax. You might be here for a little while. Make yourself comfortable. … I rubbed his back and held his hand. I asked him what his kids’ names were and what his wife’s name was.”
All of us hope that if we were the victims of such a terrible accident, someone would be there to comfort us and stay with us. I’m sure that that man’s family and the family of all those Konzelman helped are beyond grateful to him for being with their loved ones during such a terrifying time. As the 24-year-old told local King 5 News: “When I found myself in that situation where people were pinned under the train, that’s what it came to, was just what would I want someone to do for me in that situation.”
Meanwhile, Hoverman was circling through those who had been rescued, praying with them and making sure they were okay.
Konzelman and Hoverman stayed with the victims for 25-45 minutes until rescue workers were able to get them out of the wreckage. For his part, Konzelman credits his time in the Boy Scouts and his faith in God for his actions: “I think it was all those Boy Scout camps I went to and the first aid merit badge, the lifesaving badge, that helped me know what to do. I’m thankful for God who gave me the courage to go in there.”
Thank goodness for the helpers.