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Rescuer, survivor from 50-year-old train wreck remember tragedy - abc27 WHTM

Rescuer, survivor from 50-year-old train wreck remember tragedy

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It was supposed to be a fun train ride on the way to watch baseball in Philadelphia. But, only minutes out of the Harrisburg train station, fun turned to tragedy.

Fifty years ago this month a horrible accident unfolded in Dauphin County: a passenger train derailed and some cars fell into the Susquehanna River. 

On that fateful day - July 28, 1962 - 19 people died. One hundred others were injured. A rescuer remembers it like yesterday.

"It was like a nightmare. All I could hear was screaming," said volunteer rescuer Paul Tezac.

Tezac, 77,  was among the first on the scene after a nine-car train derailed next to the Bethlehem Steel plant in Steelton. The last three cars were tossed over the bank into the Susquehanna River. Chaos and carnage was everywhere.

"When I stepped to get on the car, I stepped on a man's chest," Tezac said.

After helping survivors exit by ladder, Tezac was called to assist his brother, already inside the car.

"There was a little boy. 'I want my daddy. I want my daddy.'  That was heart-breaking," he said. 

That little boy made it, but his dad, who was pinned under his son, did not.

"That was horrible," he said. "All I hear was people screaming and back in the car, 'Help me, help me, help me.'"

In the last seats of the last car were 15-year-old John Murray and three of his Middletown High school buddies.

"I heard glass breaking. I heard screams," Murray said. "And then just like that I woke up and I was half way up the train car. It was on its side and I was lying over a seat with the Susquehanna River maybe two feet before my face."

His friends escaped injury, but Murray suffered a fractured skull and was treated at Harrisburg Hospital.

The boys were among the fortunate: 19 men, women and children died that afternoon. Investigators blamed the derailment on improperly anchored rails where new ties had been installed just the day before.

"Everyone was stunned," Tezac said. "Nobody could believe it, unless you seen it."

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