“I let my training and everything kick in,” says US Navy veteran Daniel Hutchinson of he and his son’s reaction to Montana’s Amtrak tragedy.
Wolf Point native Daniel Hutchinson and his son would instantly go into survival mode when Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger train began derailing near Joplin. At least three people died in the eventual crash, with dozens more injured.
The Hutchinsons were on their way to visit Daniel’s granddaughter in Seattle when the unthinkable happened.
“We felt the track get kind of rough and then we felt kind of a big bump,” Daniel tells 3KRTV. “And then I heard gravel noise and we were slowing down fast.”
Hutchinson says he was sitting next to the window at the time. He immediately began thinking through possible scenarios as the Amtrak’s racket intensified.
“I was thinking if this thing goes over this window is going to be in the gravel,” he recalls. “And so I just kind of skooched down onto the floor and you could hear brakes and gravel and we were slowing down pretty fast, it still took a little bit to get completely stopped.”
The train went off the tracks, slamming into the gravel west of Havre. It was then that the father & son duo of veterans would use every ounce of their survival training to rescue everyone they could.
“I hollered through the car I said is everybody all right, is anybody injured,” Daniel, a US Navy vet, explains. His son, a US Marine Corps veteran, would do the same.
Veterans’ Training Leads to Dozens More Surviving Amtrak’s Deadly Derailment
“Everybody check your neighbor. Everybody look around at your seatmate, the people sitting close to you. Look around and make sure. Is there anybody injured in case they can’t answer for themselves?” Daniel recalls asking.
“And everybody looked around. No, there’s no injuries here. Nobody’s injured. Okay. Here’s what we need to do. We need to exit the car. Just gather up your stuff and we’ll just file on out of here,” he would tell the Amtrak survivors. “Just move on out of here just in case something happens and we end up with a fire or something, we’ll already be out of here.”
And out they were. These two highly-trained soldiers were thrilled, however, to see all other civilians immediately doing everything they could to help other survive.
“There wasn’t anybody there that wasn’t willing to help if they could help,” Hutchinson recalls for 3KRTV.
After it all, Daniel says he has “a prayer of thanks that the good Lord put me in the right place at the right time to be of service that I can help somebody. And let my training and everything kick in and do what I did and to help make it better for some other people.”
In the end, Hutchinson would postpone his trip and return home to family in Wolf Point; forever grateful he and his son were able to do so.