A passenger recounts the Amtrak train derailment in Missouri as 'hell on Earth' A passenger on board the Amtrak train that crashed into a truck and derailed in Missouri on Monday, killing four people, has described the harrowing moment when his carriage rolled.

A passenger recounts the moment the Amtrak train derailed: 'It was hell on Earth'

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When we first tried to reach Charles Hoffman yesterday afternoon, he was in the back of an ambulance. Hoffmann was one of close to 300 people on board an Amtrak train. It was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago yesterday when it collided with a dump truck in rural Missouri. The intersection was an unguarded crossing - no gates or bells, just a simple stop sign marked railroad crossing. Four people were killed, including the truck's driver, and over 100 were injured, including Charles Hoffman. He goes by Chad, and we were able to get him on the line today. Hi, Chad.


SUMMERS: First of all, I just want to ask, how are you doing? Are you doing all right?

HOFFMAN: You know, I feel blessed to be alive but bumped up, bruised up and kind of tattered and sore. At 400 pounds, I had a hard time getting out of that train yesterday. It was hell on earth.

SUMMERS: OK. So what was that moment of the collision like? Tell us what happened.

HOFFMAN: Well, I was riding backwards, so that was a blessing because I didn't fly forward on the impact. But all I heard was a bam, bang, boom. And all of a sudden, the train dropped down, which I thought was probably when it went off track. And then it was like, bam, bam, bam, bam, riding down the wood a little bit, the wood railroad ties. And then all of a sudden, we started going over, going over. It felt like forever that I went over. Then it hit down and broke out my window. And then it was - all hell broke loose because I was laying down there on the bottom side with all the rocks coming through the window from the train tracks.

SUMMERS: You said it went over and over. Did your car overturn, then?

HOFFMAN: It overturned. It overturned, fell to the left, fell down, all the way down and skidded, skidded, skidded forever, it felt like, anyway.

SUMMERS: And when it did stop, what happened then? How did you get out of that train car?

HOFFMAN: Well, to tell you the truth, I was laying there - I had a couple of pillows - just to get my bearings. And it was so dusty. And I'm on oxygen, by the way. So I - all I heard was, are you OK - anybody in here? I'm like, I'm in here. And I had a long ways to go to get out, but I just kind of rolled my way out. I'm a big guy. And I kind of pushed my way up. I felt like I had Hercules strength with my adrenaline pumping.

I got to the top of the train. We were up there for quite a while because they weren't bringing any ladders for a long time. And then a big guy down on the bottom talked me into walking down the big rail wheels, and that was really hard. But at the last second, he's like, just let go. I'll catch you. Some big guy under me - let go, and I'll catch you. And I'm like, are you sure? I mean, all right. Anyway, excuse me. But he caught me, so I got down.

SUMMERS: What happened after you got out? What happened then?

HOFFMAN: They finally got me to the hospital. They checked me in. They got me in quick because they thought I was having cardiac symptoms because my heart rate was so high. My blood pressure was really elevated. I had the cold sweats. So they thought something was really wrong, so they got me in. And actually, it was just - everything checked out for the most part, and then it was a long day in the ER.

SUMMERS: Chad, not everyone chooses to travel by train when they do. What made you choose Amtrak for the trip that you took yesterday?

HOFFMAN: Absolutely - good question. At 400 pounds, I can't really fly. If I did, I'd have to buy two seats, probably. I can't afford that. So mainly because I can't fly. I mean, I did enjoy Amtrak. This is the third time I've done it. I will say I'll never be on a train again for many years, many, many years. The whole night when I was trying to fall asleep, I kept getting flashbacks and, like, visuals and things running through my head, and it made it very hard to sleep. But I'm OK. I'm alive, and I'm sitting in a recliner actually drinking a Diet Coke and actually feeling averagely decent right now. So I guess that's a blessing.

SUMMERS: That's Chad Hoffman. He was aboard the Amtrak train that derailed in rural Missouri. Thanks so much, Chad - glad you're safe.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.


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