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Communities near site of Amtrak derailment hopeful for change

Amtrak NTSB train derail Mendon crash 4.png
Posted at 9:19 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 23:15:25-04

MENDON, Mo. — More than 48 hours after Monday's deadly Amtrak derailment, the National Transportation Safety Board said they would be meeting with state and county stakeholders to determine a course forward.

The move has the small communities surrounding the crash site optimistic that change will be coming for their railroad crossings.

"They wanted to thank me for bringing this forward," Mike Spencer, a local farmer off Highway 11 near the crash site, said.

Spencer had a personal visit with NTSB officials on Wednesday afternoon, including chairwoman Jennifer Homendy, as her agency continues to investigate the deadly derailment.

When KSHB 41 told Spencer about the train’s use of a horn before the crash, he shook his head.

"By the time you hear the horn, you’re already at impact," Spencer said. "Especially a train coming through there at 90 mph like Amtrak does."

Spencer said there is poor visibility, and an inability to hear an incoming horn at the crossing.

He and his neighbors know change won’t happen overnight, but they know they have the attention of federal and state agencies.

"They’ll see how vital we really are and what we make of what resources they give us, because we don’t have many out here, as you know, in the rural area," Carol Wamsley, who lives in Mendon, said.

They don’t want to see another accident.

"It doesn’t matter what the cost is, lives are being taken because of them not taking care of business," Wamsley said.

Spencer said he's had close calls on the crossing himself.

"I’ve had close calls there myself. One was with an Amtrak train, my son-in-law was with me in the pickup, he was a witness to it," he said. "I was probably within twenty foot of that rail when an Amtrak train busted out from behind those trees."

That memory, and the memory of Monday, won’t go away for a while.

"It shouldn’t have happened. A life is a life," Spencer said.

Wamsley also recalled what she witnessed after the derailment.

"It was quite a bit to see the victims come off the buses, watch the helicopters go out," Wamsley said. "The sympathy we had for them was true and sincere, because I just don’t know how I’d feel in that situation, but I would hope someone would reach out to me."