One of the first faces some panicked passengers saw as they screamed for help from the derailed Amtrak train belonged to 16-year-old Chris Krings, who ran to the crash site Tuesday night with his dad after seeing a blue flash of light followed by a loud bang.
“We got back there and seen the train wreck and my dad said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God,” Chris remembered Wednesday morning as he recounted the surreal experience.
Krings and his dad had just wrapped up a grocery run to the Walmart, just a few blocks away. On the way home they saw the flash of light and loud noise, so they followed the sound of sirens and helicopters overhead down to the wreckage. They got out of the minivan and started running to the site of the crash that has so far claimed seven lives and sent hundreds to the hospital.
Before he even saw the victims in the mangled train cars, Krings heard them.
“People were saying, ‘Help! Help! Please help!” Krings said.
Chris and his dad raced to the first passenger car, where one of the windows was already knocked out.
"We actually had to bust out a couple of windows,” Krings said, “And we just started pulling out people. Maybe 20 people in all.”
Harry Krings helped a firefighter get one of the first ladders up on that car, according to his son, and helped bring people out one by one.
“And one lady," Chris Krings said, "I heard my dad tell her to walk slowly down the steps. ‘Are you OK? What’s wrong?’ I heard him ask. ‘My stomach. I’m pregnant,’ she said.”
Nothing in his routine life in his Bridesburg community — days typically filled with family, being home schooled, working for a lawn care business, riding bikes with friends — had prepared Chris Krings to be on the front lines of a train derailment rescue.
“I guess you could say me and my dad, we’re like take-charge kind of people," he said.
The ride home, however, was rough. It was hard to let go of one particular moment.
“To the right of us, they pulled out a body and put a sheet over it,” he said. It’s the closest the teen has ever been to death.
“I told my parents, I told everyone, that to see that in person — I’ve seen that in movies. I’ve seen it in video games -- it changes you. I can’t explain it, the replay in the mind,” he said.
Sleep did not come easy. Chris Krings would have headed to work this morning. It might have been a nice distraction, but he stayed home to nurse a wound.
“I cut myself running down to the tracks," he said. "I had flip-flops on.”