‘We Had Some Angelic Help': Tracy Man Recounts Helping Injured Passengers After ACE Train Derailed

Doug Nelson said he made a prayer for protection just moments before boarding a commuter train that later derailed due to a mudslide in Sunol, California.

The Tracy resident was one of several passengers who sprung into action to help people who were injured after the mudslide swept a tree onto the tracks and caused the leading car of the Altamont Corridor Express train No. 10 to flip on its side Monday evening during heavy rains. 

"I believe we had some angelic help last night," Nelson said Tuesday night in an interview with NBC Bay Area. "It could have been much worse."

Nine passengers were injured in the derailment near 5500 Niles Canyon Road, which also sent one train car into a nearby creek, Union Pacific officials said. Caltrans crews reopened Niles Canyon late Tuesday.

Authorities also late Tuesday said two passengers were still hospitalized: a woman at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and a man at Washington Hospital in Fremont.

Officials said ACE trains will resume normal scheduled service on Wednesday morning.

The shock of the train derailment is still sinking in for passengers.

Nelson said he was on board two cars behind the lead car in the ACE train when it derailed.

"Right as it happened there were a few jolts," he said. "We didn't know what was going to happen, so everyone was trying to keep people at ease."

Nelson, who is a medical emergency volunteer at his San Jose job, headed for the first car where the injured passengers were. One woman in the overturned car was badly hurt and stuck, partially submerged in water from the swollen creek.

"Then at that time there were a few people coming out with really hurtful injuries," Nelson said. "Ribs and bruises and things like that."

As other tended to the woman, Nelson guided the other injured passengers out of the car.

"We were helping them because it was really difficult when the train is on its side," he said. "There's no real place to step, so we were directing people 'step here, don't step here. Put your hand here.'"

From there, Nelson helped the injured passengers into ambulances and buses. He returned home late Monday and said he has not slept much since the incident.

Meanwhile, the first commuter ACE train is scheduled to leave Stockton at 4:20 a.m. Wednesday. Officials said a spot train will run in front of the commuter train to make sure the rails are safe.

NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd Kristofer Noceda contributed to this report.

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