Ryan Roberts couldn’t believe it when his girlfriend called early Sunday morning to tell him her train had crashed.
Waking up to his girlfriend’s call in their Raleigh, N.C., home, he asked her to repeat herself three times when she said the train she left on Saturday night had derailed near Columbia.
Roberts’ girlfriend, who asked not to be named, was among 139 people on board an Amtrak train headed for Florida that collided with another train early Sunday in Cayce, killing two and injuring scores more.
Roberts had just seen her off at a Raleigh train station along with friend Eli Reda at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Both women were traveling to Florida to visit family.
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After receiving the call, Roberts went to wake up Reda. His wife, who also asked not to be identified, had been injured in the crash, but Reda also couldn’t believe it.
“But he just kept knocking, saying ‘Your wife’s bleeding from the head,’ ” Reda said.
The men drove four hours through the night to reach Columbia, with only their significant others’ descriptions of a devastating train crash to prepare them for what to expect.
“They were sleeping and woke up to a nightmare,” Roberts said. There were elderly people bleeding and suffering from broken bones, and children who were bleeding and “gashed up.”
“They were horrified,” he said.
Siewhally described what felt like airplane turbulence in her sleeping cabin, which was the first one behind the engine, before the train derailed, Reda said.
“The next thing you know, she opened her eyes and all she did was fly up,” Reda said.
Both men arrived at Pine Ridge Middle School on Sunday, where many passengers and luggage were taken after the crash, to pick up their loved ones’ belongings. Reda said his wife had stitches in her forehead and an ankle injury from the crash. The couple had just moved to North Carolina after Siewhally was in a car accident with a drunken driver in Florida.
“We moved up here to have a calm small town,” he said.
Both women were still being treated at the hospital Sunday afternoon and were in “a lot of pain,” Roberts said.
Allison Singletary also arrived at the middle school from Georgia to pick up her mother Marsha’s belongings, after another early morning phone call. Her mother was traveling from Washington, D.C., to visit her in Georgia.
“I was definitely worried. But when she said she was OK, then I’m OK,” Singletary said, who said her mother didn’t break anything in the collision.
But the worst may not be over. Roberts worried his wife would lose her job if she won’t be able to immediately return to work after the crash. Nevertheless, he saw something “uplifting” in the experience.
“It really showed me how much I appreciate my wife,” Roberts said.