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'Everyone thought it was fake': Appleton Boy Scouts reflect on Missouri train derailment

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Posted at 9:09 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 22:09:28-04

APPLETON, Wis. (NBC 26) — Imagine if you were on the Amtrak train that derailed in Mendon, Missouri a few days ago. What would you have done?

Two Boy Scout troops from Appleton were aboard the train when it struck a dump truck at a railroad crossing.

They did all they could before first responders arrived. In scouts, you prepare for moments when life is on the line.

"Everyone was ready for this," Troop 73 scout Mason Geissler said.

"Us, we're all friends, we're all good buddies," Troop 73 scout Isaiah Awe said.

"We had a whole week to get to know each other more," Troop 12 scout Logan Poelcer said. "Good teamwork building."

These Boy Scouts — as young as 14 and as old as 17 — were on a hiking trip at a camp in New Mexico, and weren't there just to build character.

"For some people, this is their final capstone of scouting after they've gotten their Eagle project done," Troop 73 scout Henry Gadzik said.

Their train route was set to stop in Chicago on their way home. But their trip took a major turn for the worse when the train struck a dump truck at a crossing in Missouri.

"Confusion after it hit," Isaiah said. "There were people screaming. Everyone was like, no one knows what is happening. Everyone thought it was fake."

When the train derailed, the Boy Scouts didn't panic. Instead, they sprang right into action.

"There was no time for goofing around," Troop 73 scout Eli Awe said.

"In a way, you could've called this a test of what you've learned," Troop 73 scout Dean Seaborn said. "A final test."

The Boy Scouts checked to see if everyone was OK, and helped those who were injured get out of the train before first responders came for help.

The Scouts say there were in the back of the train when it derailed, but nobody could see where Seaborn was.

"It was like I was kind of in a movie," Seaborn said.

Seaborn was stuck in the bathroom, completely turned over with no windows.

"The door was locked shut," Seaborn said. "I couldn't open it because it was too heavy, because it was on the side. So, it was like gravity pushing it down."

He says panic set in, but wasn't all alone.

"I was on call with a 911 lady," Seaborn said. "She was super nice. I can't thank her enough. She calmed me down a lot."

Seaborn says he was stuck in the bathroom for about a half hour before two men helped him get out.

His instinct afterward — to help as many people as possible.

"Me, another scout and an adult helped the engineer to get water in front of the cart," Seaborn said. "We started passing that out to first responders and people in need."

A courageous response by someone who trains for situations like this.

"Everyone was doing their job," Seaborn said. "Just as one, whole community."

"Everybody was doing what they could, where they could, and how they could," Gadzik said.

Most people survived, including all the scouts.

"We cannot praise the community of Mendon enough for all the help they gave us and the stability they gave us," Gadzik said.

"Like we were at the school," Troop 12 scout Eli Schultz said. "They already had fried chicken cooked up for us. It was incredible."

The boys took a flight home to Green Bay the next day.

"Lot of crying," Schultz said. "Lot of hugging, lot of loving support."

"Do you guys feel like heroes?," reporter Tyler Job asked.

The group responded saying "no."

"The real heroes have to be the first responders who were there right away," Troop 73 scout Harrison Boardman said.

They don't want to be called heroes.

"It just feels good that we were actually able to help," Troop 73 scout Eli Awe said.

But can say they are proud of the work they did.

Eli Awe says his father and another Scouts dad are still recovering from the crash at a hospital in Missouri. There is a GoFundMe page to help them out. It has raised more than $3,000. More information can be found here.