Police & Fire

Dexter grad noticed speed before deadly Amtrak derailment

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Moments before the Dec. 18 deadly Amtrak derailment, a Mainer on board noticed the train’s high speed.

Cody Clark, a 28-year-old Dexter Regional High School graduate from Exeter, said he recalls thinking, “We’re going pretty fast. We’re going faster than all the cars on the highway.”

Moments later the train, which was traveling through Washington state, hurtled off the tracks, killing three people and injuring more than 100. Clark, a corporate sales manager for Staples who moved from Portland, Maine, to Seattle last July, walked away without serious injuries.

Authorities have determined that the train was racing along at 80 mph, 50 mph above the limit, when it hit a curve, derailing all but one of its 14 cars. Two locomotives were left dangling from a bridge while the train’s passenger cars buckled on top of each other or ended up in trees.

Clark had boarded the train’s second passenger car at 6 a.m. in Seattle. He was heading to Portland, Ore., on business and spent the first part of what should have been a 3.5-hour trip reading and checking email.

Sometime before 7:30 a.m., Clark looked out the window and saw the train was zipping along parallel to Interstate 5.

Almost immediately, he heard a loud screeching. An instant later, he blacked out.

“I don’t really have any memory of that split second of when we went from 80 mph to a standstill,” Clark said. He regained consciousness on the opposite side of the coach and saw that the car had tipped over on its side and that the windows where he had been sitting were smashed.

From the overhead luggage rack, “My bag fell directly into my arms. It was the weirdest thing,” he said.

The doors on either side of the car were blocked. No one in his car seemed seriously injured, Clark said. He and another passenger knocked out a window. The group climbed through and had to jump about 6 feet to the ground.

Clark was eventually taken to a hospital emergency room. He said he was diagnosed as having an injured neck, herniated disc and some brain trauma.

“I’m walking and talking,” he said. “All things considered, I’m better off than most people.”

Clark

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