GREENVILLE, SC (WIS) - The man driving the children's train ride that crashed last weekend, killing a 6-year-old boy, said he feels like a victim.
Matt Conrad said during a news conference in Greenville Wednesday that he wasn't prepared for media scrutiny following the crash and said he is suffering because of his role.
Police said Conrad admitted he knew the train was going too fast. Conrad said the entire experience has been worse than his worst nightmare.
With his arm in a sling, Conrad wanted to remind everyone that he was on that train, too. "I'm as much a victim as anyone else," he said, "I don't want to minimize the pain these other families are suffering, but I'm suffering too."
When the small locomotive derailed Saturday, it left one child dead, dozens injured and the veteran conductor at the center of it all. "I had just enough time to realize I was off the track and think 'I hope we don't go into that creek' when the engine started to fall," said Conrad.
"I blamed myself," he said, "The only thing I could think of that could possibly have caused something that bad was that I was going too fast."
But Conrad thinks it was a freak mechanical error that caused the train to jump the tracks. He says he did five test laps in the train Saturday morning to make sure it was safe. "If I had felt anything, anything at all I thought would have told me there's a problem, I would have stopped," said Conrad, "I would not have let those kids get hurt for the world."
Conrad said after the crash, he tried to help as many as he could.
6-year-old Benjamin Easler was killed. Four other children remain in the hospital. There's no official word on their conditions. "I was sitting there, and I heard the first helicopter come in," said Conrad, "And I knew what that helicopter meant And I was scared to death."
Authorities are still investigating what caused the wreck. On Wednesday, one of the families injured sued state and county officials for negligence.