Amtrak train sounded like it had a ‘flat wheel,’ says Olympia man who survived crash

A 79-year-old Olympia man, who suffered minor injuries when an Amtrak train derailed Monday near DuPont, said it sounded like it had a “flat wheel,” as if one of those train wheels had been ground off and was skidding along the track.

That’s according to Charles Heebner, who, along with his wife, Beverly, 78, set off Monday morning to ride the train from Tacoma to Centennial Station near Lacey. They wanted the opportunity to ride the newly established section of track, he said.

About 7:30 a.m. Monday that ride came to a disastrous halt when the train crashed on an Interstate 5 overpass, leaving part of the train dangling over the freeway. The crash resulted in multiple injuries and deaths.

After the crash, Heebner and his wife got off under their own power, but were later taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital by ambulance. He shared his story from an emergency room bed Monday. He received some stitches in his head and also complained about back pain. His wife was set to get a CT scan, he said.

He said they were in car 3, a forward car, when the crash happened. He began to hear what he thought was a flat wheel for about a minute before the train crashed, followed by tossing and the sounds of squealing and rattling. Then it got dark, he said. A woman also screamed.

Charles said he wound up on top of his wife on the floor, which was covered with soil, although he wasn’t clear where it may have come from. After they got out of the train, emergency vehicles began to arrive.

Providence St. Peter Hospital spokeswoman Chris Thomas said the Heebners were expected to be released Monday.

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