PINE RIDGE, SC (WIS) - A North Carolina man traveling to Disney World on Amtrak Train 91 before it crashed with a CSX train says that the collision was a jarring experience, but raved about first responders and others who helped him and other passengers.
Matthew Cheeseman, a schools superintendent from North Carolina, says he's very thankful that he and his family are OK.
He said they first boarded Amtrak Train 91 on Saturday night in Rocky Mount, NC to visit family in Florida in addition to going to Disney World. He says prior to the collision, it was a "relatively smooth evening."
He said his family was asleep when the collision happened. He said he has rug burn on his body from being dragged across the train floor. His wife and daughter are also OK.
"At 2:30 in the morning, we were thrown across the room and were awakened to loud sounds and metal moving," Cheeseman said. "You could clearly tell the train was coming off the track."
Cheeseman says it was very dark when the collision happened, but the impact of the collision was felt throughout. He was inside one of the train cars that derailed from the track.
Once he was out of the car with his family, he said his next steps were trying to help others. Cheeseman says his daughter is just a kid who may not understand the magnitude of the collision.
"She's a kid that doesn't necessarily understand the magnitude of what happened," Cheeseman said. "I think we're just happy to be together."
Cheeseman also said that the law enforcement and emergency management services were top-notch in their response to passengers. He says Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon personally escorted he and his family to Pine Ridge Middle School to the response center and are now on their way to Florida via a rental car thanks to a helpful Amtrak employee.
Other Amtrak passengers were taken to Jacksonville by buses provided by Amtrak.
Two people - the conductor and engineer of the Amtrak train - were killed in the collision. In all, 116 passengers were hurt with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones.