NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A man from South Florida described the terrifying moments when the Amtrak train he was riding in derailed in Montana, leaving at least three people dead and sending seven others to the hospital.
Joe Abaunza spoke to 7News about Saturday afternoon’s derailment during a video call on Sunday. He said he is still reeling from the violent turn of events.
“This is something you only see in the movies,” he said. “We said, ‘Did this really happen? Is this for real?'”
Abaunza, who is from Miami Beach, was taking the train from Minneapolis to Portland. He said it was one of the many Amtrak rides he took as part of a current cross-country trip by train.
But he never imagined this one would end the way it did.
“I feel a jolt, but I’m like, ‘Oh, just hang on.’ Before I know it, I’ve been swung across the room, or at least it went from one place to the other,” he said. “I was on the driver’s side, per se, and I ended up on the passenger side. We had flipped over.”
Cellphone video shared by Abaunza showed other passengers in pain inside a train car.
“You could tell some people were in pain. They were screaming, yelling, crying,” he said.
Abaunza said a train attendant captured in the video broke her arm.
Outside, the footage showed several other train cars turned over or completely off the tracks.
More than 150 people who were on board were shuttled to nearby gathering spots like a high school.
Abaunza said some people took another train to their destinations, while others will fly there.
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn issued a statement that reads in part, “Amtrak’s immediate and sustained focus is on doing everything we can to help our passengers and crew, especially the families of those who were injured or died, at this painful and difficult time.”
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte addressed the tragedy during a news conference on Sunday.
“Over the last 18 months, Montanans have faced real, serious challenges, but through it all, we’ve seen the resiliency of Montanans,” he said. “That resiliency shone bright here in Chester yesterday.”
As for Abaunza, he said he will be flying to New Mexico on Monday to continue his trip, but he’s still in shock.
“It’s rough. It’s not easy,” he said. “I feel for the people who lost their lives, for the people who have to deal with the loss of life. I would just hope that this doesn’t happen again. We don’t have to have loss of lives or multiple injuries or accidents like this.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the derailment.
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