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Flood Derails Train outside Williston, Vermont

Under the glare of National Guard spotlights, as the crane lifted cars out of the gap, the firemen dismantled. the sleeper. Half an hour past midnight they found, Johnson; ten minutes later they reached Hofmann. Neither was alive. The most massive and complicated rescue in Vermont history was over.

Five people died and 137 others were injured, but the toll might have been much worse had not the rescue operation been executed so smoothly. “Extraordinary” was the way Patricia Goldman of the National Transportation Safety Board described it. Even the rescuers were surprised. “I’ve been involved in rescue operations for 30 years,” said Essex Rescue founder Don Hamlin, “and I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude. I just stood there several times in amazement at how smoothly it was going, how things we’d ask for were appearing as if by magic. It wasn’t perfect, but it was about as close to that as you could come.”

A final note: Since the accident, a special weather radio activated by the National Weather Service in Burlington has been installed in the dispatcher’s office in St. Albans. The Vermont Central Railroad will never be caught off guard again.

Updated Thursday, October 17th, 2013

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