As the National Transportation Safety Board continues its investigation into what allowed a Chicago-bound train to crash into a dump truck in Missouri, this much we do know: The Scouts and adult volunteers that were onboard the train are heroes who performed brilliantly in an unimaginably difficult situation.
More than 100 passengers were injured in the crash. Four people have died, including the driver of the dump truck. Three adult Scouts BSA leaders were hospitalized. All of the youth members from Troop 73, chartered to the First English Lutheran Church’s downtown site in Appleton, Wisc., and Troop 12, chartered to First English Lutheran Church’s north site, had returned home safely by Tuesday evening.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the group. They were on their way home from a high-adventure trek at Philmont Scout Ranch when the accident occurred. The Scouts and adults provided first aid to injured passengers and broke some of the train’s windows to get other people to safety.
Heroes in the media, as well
In addition to performing like heroes at the scene, the Scouts and adults also performed heroically in interviews with the media in the days that followed.
Troop 73 SPL Eli Skrypczak told Fox News correspondent Garrett Tenney that “I just knew what to do … all of our Scouts did.”
When NBC’s Today correspondent Maggie Vespa told host Craig Melvin that Scouts stayed on site to help injured passengers, Melvin replied, “of course they did — they’re Scouts.”
And when the Scouts arrived in Appleton on a private jet, they were met by not only family members, but also WBAY reporter Jason Zimmerman, who interviewed one Scout with visible injuries to his face.
Traveling to (and from) Philmont is challenging, for now
Traveling by train is a popular way for Scouts east of Philmont to get to and from the high-adventure base. Due to damage to the track where the incident occurred, multiple crews have come off the trail to find that their way home no longer exists. Crew advisors and parents back home have had to explore multiple options to get the groups home, including traveling by car, bus or plane.
Some groups planning to visit in the coming weeks have also had to rethink their travel plans. Philmont logistics manager John Bare says he’s heard from some crews who, due to the uncertainty of when the track will fully reopen, have decided to drive, fly or take a bus.
There is at least one train route that can get groups to Denver, from which they can take a bus to Raton, N.M.
Although Philmont has no control over the train schedules, Bare says they do have the ability to alter some backcountry itineraries if a group arrives a day or two late. Units are encouraged to contact Philmont directly if they’re forced to change their travel plans.
Stay tuned to On Scouting in the coming days for exclusive interviews with the Scouts and leaders who were involved in this incident.