Amtrak 501 derailment 911 calls: 'Just send everything you've got'
DUPONT, Wash. —
One of the first calls to 911 on the morning of Monday, Dec. 18, when Amtrak 501 derailed near DuPont, Washington, came from a trucking company.
One of its drivers plowed his truck right into debris shoved onto Interstate 5, when the train’s locomotive crashed from the tracks above the freeway.
“He said he was driving the truck, and he saying the train came off onto his truck,” the caller told an emergency operator.
One woman called from onboard the derailed train.
“Our train crashed!!!” the caller told a 911 operator. “I’m on the train! I’m physically on the train!!”
Another call came from Aura MacArthur.
MacArthur told the 911 operator she'd been driving southbound on I-5 in the early morning darkness when the locomotive crashed onto the freeway from above, plowing dirt and debris ahead of it so hard it tossed MacArthur’s car around like a toy.
MacArthur thought her car had been hit by a landslide.
“I’m the only car besides the semi that made it through the train derailment. I was right at the front when it came,” said MacArthur. “I thought it was a mudslide. A cloud of mud and dirt hit my car and spun me around."
Emergency crews from the nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord military installation were the first sent to the scene.
It was soon clear they needed a lot more help.
“We’ve got -- just send everything,” a JBLM emergency operator told a fire communications operator. “We’ve got a passenger train. There could be passengers hurt and injured. Just send everything you’ve got.”
There was also a 911 call from a man trying to drive to the crash site.
His told the operator his wife called him from onboard the derailed train, and she was hurt.
“My wife was in a train accident. It was an Amtrak headed south to Portland,” the man told the operator. “She must have hit her head. When she came to, she was able to use another passenger’s phone to call me and let me know she was involved in this accident.”
“I would suggest you don't head down I-5,” the 911 operator told the caller. “They're not gonna know what hospital your wife's gonna go to at this point.”
“I'm not gonna be able to not,” the man replied.
“That's totally up to you,” the 911 operator told the man. “I'm just giving you advice, that's totally up to you.”
“I appreciate that,” the man said. “I apologize for being in a bit of a mess and a panic.”
Three people were killed in the wreck. Many others were injured.