Daniel Konzelman was driving along Interstate 95 in Pierce County, Washington, with his girlfriend Alicia on Monday morning when he saw the Amtrak passenger train No. 501 speeding by.
“We saw the Amtrak train go by us on a high rate of speed, I noticed that but I figured trains know what they’re doing,” Konzelman told PEOPLE. “When we got to the bridge … after about 45 seconds of sitting in traffic I looked up and saw the train hanging off the bridge.
“I realized, ‘Whoa! There’s been a major accident and we need to get out of traffic as fast as possible,’ ” he added.
At least three people died and dozens were left injured after the train derailed and spilled several cars off an Interstate 5 overpass onto the busy highway. The train was making its inaugural run and officials said the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Konzelman says he and Alicia quickly rushed to the scene and were some of the first people on site.
“It was kind of dark and kind of foggy so we couldn’t really see the extent of the crash until we were up on the bridge,” he tells PEOPLE. “[We] looked down below and I was sort of overwhelmed. I was like, ‘This is major.’ And one of my first thoughts was like, ‘There’s still people in those trains who could be dying.’ ”
He says he climbed through the broken window of one train car and inside found a man with a neck and back injury.
WSP diverting traffic at DuPont. WSP aiding withbroad closure & getting assistance to scene. pic.twitter.com/fRw4uGNIVv— Trooper Brooke Bova (@wspd1pio) December 18, 2017
“A woman who was by him had head trauma and she was sort of unstable,” Konzelman continues. “I couldn’t get them out of the train without a ladder or a gurney so I stayed with them until I was able to get somebody else to just come be with them and make sure they were safe.”
Konzelman says he jumped below the overpass where another train car dangled by a wooded area. He says another man came to help and inside another car they found an injured train attendant.
“He had been thrown on impact into a table and then into the area between the [cars] and hit his head,” Konzelman, an accountant, tells PEOPLE. “I think he broke his back. He was sort of pinned and couldn’t move.”
When rescue teams arrived at the scene, Konzelman and a police officer made their way through the rest of the train and found “the most seriously damaged train car” where he says three people were pinned underneath.
“One person was seriously injured and he had blood streaming from his head down to his toes,” he tells PEOPLE. “An older man, probably in his mid-60s, was walking around in circles in total shock. I grabbed him by the hand and stabilized him by the hips and walked him away from the train.”
“He didn’t have any shoes on. He was barefoot or in his socks, just covered in blood,” Konzelman said of the victim.
He says he stayed at the scene for hours, helping rescue teams tend to the victims and praying for help for the victims.0comments
“I would hope that someone else would do that for me if I was in their position,” he says. “I just wanted to be that sense of safety and peace to those people.”
Two of the three people killed in the derailment have been identified as friends, James Hamre and Zack Willhoite. Hamre and Willhoite both volunteered at All Aboard Washington, a rail advocacy group.