Soon after Amtrak Train 501 headed south toward Portland, Del DeSart — sitting in the third car — decided to catch a bit of sleep. He awoke as the train began to rattle violently and clutched the arm rests.
While waiting for the shaking to end, he was knocked unconscious by the crash.
DeSart was pinned under a luggage rack as the car was upside down in the dirt. The passenger behind him was dead. Emergency crews eventually pried him free and took him to a local hospital to be treated for internal injuries.
DeSart, 38, of Astoria, was one of more than 100 people injured Monday morning when the train careened off a track over Interstate 5 near Tacoma, killing 3 people so far. Still in the hospital in stable condition, DeSart was able to speak to his wife, Meagan, about his story.
Del, Meagan and their young children moved to Astoria a couple of years ago from Seattle, where he grew up. Del is a buyer at Columbia Memorial Hospital, and Meagan — who is from Astoria — runs a wine business from home.
A 20-year Seattle Seahawks season ticket holder, Del made the regular trip north to watch his favorite team play. He typically drives to the games but recently decided on an alternative.
“He said, ‘I think the train is the way to go,’” Meagan said. “‘It’s cheap. It’s stress-free.’”
Del was staying with his brother outside Seattle and planned to take the train to Longview, Washington, get in his car and drive back to Astoria. He texted Meagan about 6 a.m. to alert her that he had made the train and would be back in a few hours.
After driving her kids to school, Meagan returned home and began her typical morning workout before receiving a curious phone call from her father-in-law. “He never calls me,” she said with a laugh.
He asked her about the derailment and whether Del was on the train. Confused, Meagan turned on the television before spending about 45 minutes trying to call Del and area hospitals.
“It felt like an eternity,” Meagan said.
She checked Del’s email and confirmed he was on board the train.
“My heart sank,” she said. “We have young children and I was just not ready to be a widow yet.”
She was able to find out which hospital her husband was located. A nurse handed a cellphone over to Del so Meagan could speak to him before hopping in her car and heading north about 9:30 a.m.
Del is still at the hospital. A lawyer advised her not to disclose his exact medical condition.
“We’re not sure the extent of it all because they’re still doing tests,” Meagan said.
Meanwhile, people have been reaching out to Meagan and Del via Facebook to offer their support, a testament to Del’s generosity and kindness, Meagan said. She posted a hopeful message last night.
“He’s alive,” she wrote. “Anything else we will overcome.”