A Wisconsin Boy Scout has made his family and his community proud by his kind actions during the recent Amtrak train derailment.
Eli Skrypczak is a 15-year-old Boy Scout who was aboard the train when it derailed after colliding with a dump truck in Missouri. Following the collision, Skrypczak rushed to aid the dying truck driver, and comforted him in his last moments on earth when it was clear nothing could be done to save him.
Dan Skrypczak, Eli’s father and the Scout Master of Appleton Troop 73, told The New York Post the story of his son’s actions in an interview on Monday night, well after the nightmare of the day’s events had receded and the survivors had a chance to process what had happened. Although he wasn’t with Eli on the trip, Skrypczak spoke to him by phone later in the day, and said that his son discovered the man lying in a nearby ditch after escaping from the wrecked and derailed train.
“He’s OK,” Skrypczak said, talking about his son. “He’s shook now that the adrenaline has worn off. When we finally did talk to him, he was pretty upset, he wishes he could have done more. Just trying to explain to him, you get hit by a high speed train, nobody could’ve done much for the truck driver. He did everything he could, he did the right thing, he provided comfort and aid.”
Eli was one of 16 scouts and 8 adults who were aboard the train, which was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago. The scouts had participated in a 10-day backcountry trip in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico, and were returning to Wisconsin after over a week of wilderness adventure. They had no way of knowing that the trip back home would become an adventure of its own.
The driver was one of three people killed in the horrific collision, with dozens of others injured in the derailment. Three of the adult leaders and one scout were among those injured, according to official reports. There were 243 passengers and 12 crew aboard the train.
Skrypczak explained in his interview that his son found the truck driver in a ditch, and promptly called over a state patrol officer as soon as emergency personnel arrived at the scene of the wreck. Although the first responders tried to save the man, there was nothing that could be done for him.
“He’s a typical 15-year-old, he thinks he’s Superman, should’ve been able to save this guy,” Skrypczak said of his son.
Eli has been a scout since the first grade, and the training he and the other scouts in his troop received stood them in good stead when their train derailed. He was one of several Boy Scouts who managed to get out of the train and begin rendering assistance where needed. Not all of the scouts were able to do so, however, since some were injured or trapped. One scout, Skrypczak said, was stuck in the train’s bathroom for over half an hour, trapped by the weight of a dead passenger whose body was wedged against the door.
Even with all the horrors of that day, Skrypczak couldn’t help but admit that he was proud of how his son and the other scouts handled themselves.
“Any scout leader sees the kids staying calm and being part of the solution instead of the emergency itself,” he told The Post, “I think any scout leader would be proud of that. And I am.”
“I’m very, very happy about how they behaved, how they behaved in that situation,” he added. “Obviously very sad that it happened and I can’t wait to hug my kid.”
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