Passengers and crew members onboard a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train disembarked to render aid Monday after witnessing a car crash on U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango.
Carrie Peterson, a physician assistant, said she was riding in an open-air rail car looking west toward Highway 550 when the crash occurred.
She said a vehicle was stopped on the southbound side of the road when another vehicle came from behind and hit the stopped vehicle at full speed, which is about 60 mph on that stretch of highway. Both vehicles had been traveling south toward Durango.
The crash occurred about 3:30 p.m. near milepost 29, just south of Trimble Lane (County Road 252), according to the Colorado State Patrol.
A Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by a 37-year-old Durango man crashed into the back of a Chevy Suburban occupied by nine people, including five children. The driver of the Jeep was uninjured, but four or five occupants of the Suburban suffered moderate to serious injuries, according to CSP.
The Jeep apparently drifted into the shoulder and rear-ended the Suburban.
Citations were not immediately available Tuesday, but the CSP said neither speed nor alcohol and drugs are suspected to have played a role in the crash.
Peterson said the D&SNG invited employees and their family members on a Cascade Wye test run – part of a “weight test” – and the train happened to be stopped in the valley while maintenance workers were checking parts when the crash occurred.
Peterson said she dropped her thermal cup, disembarked from the train and ran across the highway to offer assistance. Train employees did the same, she said.
“I went running and was just so focused on getting there and not paying attention to my surroundings, and when I got there other people have done the same,” Peterson said. “I was so intrigued with how the employees went into full gear.”
She said train crews were equipped with first aid kits, medical gloves, a cutting tool to free occupants from seat belts and space blankets to keep people warm.
“This group of people just kicked in and did such a good thing, because it took a while for the ambulance to get there,” Peterson said.