Photo courtesy of Jim Bickely
SACRAMENTO,CA - An assistant train conductor from Sacramento survived that horrific crash Friday 70 miles east of Reno.
Initially, family members said Richard D'Alessandro was thrown from the train during the impact. But now, his father said he escaped from his fiery train car because an off-duty train conductor carried him off. That conductor also carried off the main train conductor, Laurette Lee who was killed in the crash.
William D'Alessandro spoke with his son on Sunday. He said his son Richard was sitting at a table in car number four with Lee talking and doing paperwork when the crash happened.
"At the last minute, he shifted his position a couple feet or so within seconds of the impact," said William. "Apparently, it made a big difference. He lived, she died. It's just one of those strange things that you can't account for."
D'Alessandro passed out during the impact and was carried off by an off duty conductor.
"One of the conductors in the upper level of that particular train was off duty-- pulled him and female conductor off the train and laid them side by side on the side of the tracks away from the train. He thought both of them were dead. Turns out the female was dead. Richard was unconscious," said D'Alessandro's father.
He regained consciousness and despite his serious injuries, began helping others off the train.
"He had a broken arm with a bone sticking through. He lost a finger. And another finger was nearly attached with a tendon," said William.
Some consider D'Alessandro and that off-duty conductor heroes for trying to help others get escape.
Neighbors and loved ones are just relieved D'Alessandro survived.
"He's very lucky to be alive," said Michelle Childs, D'Alessandro's niece in Elk Grove. "We're glad he's going to be OK and come home in a couple of days."
She said she last talked to her uncle on Saturday. She had gotten a call to be sure to look after D'Alessandro's dog. Childs and neighbors say D'Alessandro would come by the Elk Grove home almost daily. He lived in Downtown, Sacramento to be closer to work.
Ironically, Childs says she and her uncle talked about his job.
"We were talking about it--the week before- about his job. We were talking about all this stuff and then this happens, " said Childs.
"It's a wonder anybody survived those cars," said Neighbor Carl Guelzow.
D'Alessandro has been with Amtrak for 8 years. He is expected to return back to Sacramento in the next few days. According to his father, D'Alessandro hopes to go back to work after he fully recuperates.
According to his father, D'Alessandro has always been interested trains and train travel.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org