NewsLocal NewsAmtrak Crash


'It just blew my mind': Mendon Amtrak crash passenger sifts through NTSB investigation findings

Passenger hopes report brings sense of closure
Posted at 6:18 PM, Aug 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-03 10:55:25-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Nearly a year ago, Easton High School history teacher Jason Drinkard boarded an Amtrak train at Kansas City's Union Station. He was accompanying students on a trip to a national competition.

But little did he know the train would derail in Mendon, Missouri, just about an hour later.

RELATED | KSHB 41 News coverage of Amtrak train derailment

Since the incident, KSHB 41 reporter Megan Abundis has met with Drinkard several times. He said he was anxious for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to finalize the investigation.

“We knew it was coming out, and I tried not to think about it, getting anxious and whatnot,” he said.

Drinkard saw the report as a chance for closure.

“It just blew my mind that going 87 mph and clipping the left corner could do that,” he said after reading the report. “It’s rolled around in my head. What actually happened? What did it look like?"

The teacher vividly remembers tipping, the sound of metal scraping, being dragged sideways and the sight of the mangled dump truck once he managed to exit the train.

Wednesday was the first time Drinkard saw a photo of the truck in one piece.

“How close the truck was to making it past that track,” he said.

While he said the outcome of the report was expected, it’s a step forward in the healing process.

“I envisioned it, what it looked like and this kind of confirmed it — to find out that he (dump truck driver) was absolved of any fault, outside of going slow on a steep grade with a heavy load," Drinkard said.

Still, questions remain for Drinkard, including the number of how many passengers were supposed to be on board.

“Nothing has addressed the number of passengers compared to how many should have been on there,” he said. “It would be nice to know. Was the train overloaded?”

His main concern is the lack of action. In the time that has passed since the incident, Drinkard said he has not seen enough change.

“A lot of what I want out of this is to fix the problem," he said. "I’m one person. If we can fix the problem and save a few lives down the road, that’s all I want."

Moving forward, Drinkard is hopeful some good can come out of the tragedy if correct preventative measures are taken.

“Something needs to be done with this crossing other than blocking it off — that’s not fair to the local community or to the local farmers,” he said.