A fortunate turn of events occurred during the terrible train derailment in Washington. Many military first responders happened to be on the road near the site of the deadly accident that claimed three lives. Many of the soldiers had just finished physical training and once seeing the accident, leaped into action.
The soldiers were stationed at the nearby Madigan Army Hospital where many of the injured civilians were taken as the military hospitals are well versed in triage care.
Second Lt. Robert McCoy, an evacuation platoon leader in the 62nd Medical Brigade, had just completed physical fitness training at JBLM and was headed home Monday morning.
Driving south on Interstate 5, he saw the train with 14 cars and engines about to cross the span over the freeway. There was a loud noise and the bridge’s concrete abutments exploded.
“It fell off of the bridge and just kept coming and kept coming and kept coming,” McCoy said. Train cars fell on to the freeway and nearby slopes.
“I slammed on the brakes and pulled on to the shoulder,” he said.
Seconds earlier, Maj. Michael Livingston had been headed south to Lacey with his teen daughter.
Livingston, a nurse anesthetist, didn’t see the derailment but saw a cloud of smoke or steam rise, probably from a crushed automobile. He parked his car and ran to the scene.
Just then he saw a man dressed in Army physical fitness clothes begin climbing a semi-trailer that was smashed against the level train car.
“I saw Lt. McCoy scale up the back of the semi-trailer like Spider-Man, so I thought I’ll get up the same way,” Livingston said.
Madigan Hospital, seven miles away then alerted into action. Once local first responders arrived they worked with the military men on the scene for about 90 minutes until they were released. The hospital cleared room for a triage center and as the injured poured in, they were quickly cared for.
Nineteen of the injured were sent there. Others were sent to Olympia and Tacoma.
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Photo courtesy: US Army Madigan Medical Center