WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A local family has returned home after what was supposed to be a vacation to a toy train convention turned fatal. A Brunswick County boy and his grandfather were on the Amtrak train that was hit by a semi-truck near Reno, Nevada last Friday.
Grandfather Jay Peterson and his grandson Chris Lachance planned for their train journey to be a great summer adventure, but it was full of more excitement than they expected.
"We were going through the desert of Nevada, and we felt these three bumps; bump, bump, bump,” Peterson explained. “When we saw the damage to the train, that was a whole new thing. Then when we started seeing people that were bloody, that also added a lot, and you had to feel for those people."
The collision killed several and injured dozens. The two returned home Saturday after completing their adventure out west.
"They're heroes in my mind because rather than panicking, they were able to keep a cool head together and do what needed to be done to help others,” said mother and daughter to the heroes Julie Lachance.
Julie said she was horrified and felt helpless being so far away, but her loved ones were safe and put their talents to good use, assisting those who were hurt and carrying supplies to those in need.
Chris Lachance was not ready to talk about the incident, but his family agrees his involvement with Boy Scouts and the North Brunswick High JROTC prepared him to help.
"He just simply showed what he's been taught all these years by family, by church and by scouts, and he put that to work by helping people that needed help,” Peterson said. “I was very, very proud of him."
Little sister and granddaughter Lizzie Lachance said she's proud too.
"I feel very happy at them because they helped so much people,” Lizzie said. “I like them coming home because I miss them."
"We're very proud of them,” dad and son-in-law Pearley Lachance said. “It was a great feeling. Obviously, they were in the right place at the right time to be able to help out."
"It was just the very best of human nature exposed to us,” Peterson said. “I'm very proud to be an American and what we saw."
Peterson said he and Chris have always been close, but this experience has certainly strengthened their bond.
Peterson said it taught him to live each day as if it is his last and to always practice the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
So far, the final accident death toll is six, including the semi-truck driver, one conductor and four passengers.