Nearly 290 people were aboard an Amtrak train when it derailed in Missouri Monday and among them were two Boy Scout troops heading home to Wisconsin from New Mexico, the Boy Scouts of America confirmed to “Good Morning America.”
Members of Troops 12 and 73 of Boy Scouts of America Bay-Lakes Council in the Appleton, Wisconsin, area were riding along with 251 other passengers when their train struck a dump truck in Mendon, Missouri, and derailed at approximately 12:42 p.m. local time. The two troops included 16 children between the ages of 14 and 17 and eight adult leaders, according to Scott Armstrong, the director of national media relations for the Boy Scouts of America.
“I got alerted from the Council in Wisconsin of the accident and was immediately contacted as well by Roger Hoyt who's the general manager of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, which is where the scouts spent the last 10 days or so hiking the high desert mountains in New Mexico on an adventure of a lifetime frankly, and they got a little more adventure than they bargained for on the way home with a train derailment yesterday,” Armstrong told “GMA.”
Armstrong said the scouts, who would’ve all earned their first aid badges and received other related skills training, such as emergency preparedness, leaped into action after the collision occurred.
“One of our scouts, a 15-year-old, he's actually the senior patrol leader, which is the lead youth of a scout troop, went forward to the point of impact of the crash and actually discovered the driver of the dump truck that was hit, who had been ejected and landed in the field adjacent to the train so our scout located the driver, attempted first aid, summoned state police and emergency responders,” Armstrong said. “They continued to give aid and then wound up just giving comfort frankly as he passed away on the scene, unfortunately.”
Two of the scouts’ mothers also told ABC affiliate station WBAY in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that they heard the scouts were also able to help break train windows and assist in the evacuation of fellow passengers.
Following the incident, the troops and their leaders were transported by bus to Columbia, Missouri, where they stayed in hotels overnight. One of the scouts had to receive medical treatment Monday but has since been released, according to Armstrong.
“All the youth have been cleared from the medical facilities so they're in relatively decent shape,” he said. “We've got a couple of adults that are pretty banged up, but nothing life-threatening but every one of them put their skills and kind of presence of mind to good use yesterday, helping others.”
“These kids are built pretty tough. They just came off an adventure that adults couldn't handle with 10 days in the mountains, hiking somewhere around 100 miles,” Armstrong added.
The Boy Scouts of America said it is working with Amtrak to arrange transportation home for the scouts and leaders and hope to get them all back to Wisconsin by late Tuesday night or Wednesday.
“The bus that was provided by Amtrak did not have a driver available to depart last night so it never arrived this morning. And so, we're still working on alternatives to get our scouts and our adult leaders home because we got a number of parents who would like to see their boys after such a traumatic incident,” Armstrong said, adding the scouts are in “good spirits.”
The death toll in the Missouri train derailment has risen to four and at least 150 were injured. It’s the second incident impacting Amtrak this week, after another Amtrak train struck a car in Brentwood, California, Sunday. Three people died and two others were injured in the California accident.
Many have been left shaken and hurt after the Amtrak accidents and the Boy Scouts said they’re planning on providing mental health support to their members and staff in the coming days.
“We'll be monitoring [the scouts] over the coming weeks to make sure that everybody's OK. It's a pretty traumatic experience. It's not always evident immediately after an incident like this and so we have mental health professionals that we're in consultation with to make sure that those services are available to the scouts and the leaders as necessary,” Armstrong said.
“It's stressful enough taking kids that aren't yours out on a high adventure like this, but when you have a catastrophic incident on top of it, we're really proud not only just the scouts but also the volunteer adult leaders that are with them,” he added.