Saturday, August 6, 2011

The California Zephyr: Death in the Desert

Unsung Hero

From what I've been told, in the moments following an accident, there is a momentary lull. The brain struggles to comprehend what has just occurred. Then the response begins. In the case of this train wreck, miles from nearest first responders, passengers relied on each other to get off the train and endeavor to render comfort and aid to the injured.

There was a fellow who jumped right in to help rescue victims and help the injured. While carrying a woman to an ambulance, he injured his leg. He never told anyone what he had done, and how his leg got injured. His brother asked him weeks later why he was limping.

Finally, he told his brother about the wreck. "You don't know how bad it was there. He'd never seen such disruption and injuries. And he said I never hope to see it again in my life."

The pain in his leg continued. Unable to work and laid off, he sought help Winnemucca. He was treated for a blood clot in his leg. But the pain continued, so he went to the VA hospital in Reno.

While undergoing treatment Wednesday, the blood clot ended up in his lungs and he died. His death leaves a wife and a lot of medical bills, but little else. He had no insurance.

His brother Al Breen says, they aren't asking for help. But they do want something his brother never sought, for others to know what he did that day.

You see, Bob Breen was also an employee of John Davis Trucking Company. On June 24, he was a few minutes behind his buddy traveling westbound on US 95. He was first on the scene, and recognized the wrecked trailers to be that of his buddy. It was Bob Breen who injured his leg while carrying a woman to a waiting ambulance.

NTSB Preliminary Report

The National Transportation Safety Board has just released a "preliminary" report concerning the deadly rail accident in the Forty Mile Desert near Miriam, Nevada, back in late June.

As you recall, a tractor pulling a full trailer plus a pup, skidded more than 300 feet into the side of the westbound Amtrak California Zephyr. The Zephyr was running on Union Pacific steel, enroute to the Bay Area from Chicago.

New information, contained in this report, states:

"A color video recording from the lead locomotive showed that the crossing gates were down as the train approached the crossing and the audio recording confirmed that the train horn and crossing bell were activated."

Seven lawsuits have been filed as a result of the crash. Sardonically, a counter-suit was filed against Amtrak and Union Pacific by John Davis Trucking Co last week stating the railroad companies "inadequately warned drivers crossing the tracks."

See Also:
Running Into Trains
California Zephyr: Update

California Zephyr: Two Related Events?

2 Comments - Click here:

Liesa Swejkoski said...

Here is the facebook memorial page. I wish I could say more. I'm just glad my family and I survived. Condolences to Mr. Breen's family.!/pages/Amtrak-California-Zephyr-Memorial-Page-Reno-Nevada-Wreck-June-24-2011/111261422300095

Ed Pearce said...

I'm Ed Pearce, the KOLO-TV reporter who did the original story on Bob Breen. I was recently contacted by his widow, Faye, who wanted to thank those who had brought his name up on the memorial page on Facebook. She has no access to the internet, but had been shown a printout of a posting there. I left a message on the Facebook page today and received a reply that the original link was no longer working. That led me here. I have Faye's contact information if anyone would like to get in touch with her or if you send them to me, I'll be glad to pass them on. She is clearly still shaken by the loss of her husband. I can be reached at or 775 351-0223,

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