A couple from California made it back home safely after surviving the deadly Amtrak train derailment in Montana over the weekend. Investigators are still looking into what caused the accident that killed three people Saturday.
"It was surreal," Hedda Louie said. "You just can't believe it just happened."
Hedda is a retired elementary school teacher, and her husband, Patrick, retired in December from Caltrans as a transportation engineer. Patrick describes himself as a train enthusiast.
The two were partway through a cross-country train trip Saturday afternoon. Their next stop was supposed to be Glacier National Park, but they never made it there.
"Everything took only about 10 seconds. It was very, very fast. No time to react," Patrick said.
They were among more than 100 passengers on the Amtrack train that derailed in rural Montana this weekend.
"You could feel as the car tilted toward the left, landed on the windows. You're against the windows, sliding against the dirt. The dust is flying up so you have a distinct, horrifying feeling that you know what's happening and you can't believe it at the time," Hedda said.
The side of their train car suddenly became the top. They had to climb up to the door to get out.
They said that they were in one of the rear cars of the train, which detached from the others.
"The rest of the train kept going forward a couple hundred yards further down the track while still attached to the engines and the engineer was trying to perform an emergency stop," Patrick said.
The couple said that they feel lucky to have survived with just some bumps and bruises, and they are grateful for the first responders and the people of Chester and the surrounding communities who helped feed, shelter and comfort them in the aftermath.
"It was very heartwarming and that, I think, I'm gonna take away from this more than the horrific accident itself, just the warmth of the people," Hedda said.
After taking several connecting flights, the couple made it back home to Elk Grove late Monday night.