Man Says Whitney Accident Saved His Life

A man from southern California says that his recent accident on Mt. Whitney saved his life.

Labor Day weekend, Inyo County Search and Rescue Volunteers helped Thousand Oaks resident Steve Burch after a fall on the Mt. Whitney trail. Burch cut his knee to the bone in the fall and also badly cut his hand. With help from bystanders and Inyo Search and Rescue, Burch was flown out to Lone Pine by helicopter.

In a letter to Inyo SAR team members, Burch says that because of his injuries from the Whitney accident, he survived the September 12, Metrolink train wreck that killed 25 people near Chatsworth.

To get to the school in Van Nuys, where he works as a music teacher, the daily commute puts Burch on the Metrolink train. Burch was injured on Mt. Whitney on Friday the 29th of August. He had returned home from the hospital the following Tuesday, the second of September.

Two weeks after the Whitney accident, Burch was back on the Metrolink, taking the train home from work, when the commuter train ran head on into a freight train. 25 people died in that accident.

A simple twist of fate kept Burch alive. Normally, the music teacher rides in the front of the train so that he is dropped off closer to where he parks his car. With the knee injured on Mt. Whitney, Burch had been taking the bus to and from the train station at Moorpark. To be closer to the bus stop, Burch rode in the last car on the train. This likely saved his life.

Burch says that he must have dozed off on the train because he does not remember the collision. He remembers waking up and wondering why he was on the floor and his body hurt. I opened my eyes and saw several people with bloody faces starting to wander around, he says. Burch closed his eyes again thinking it was all a nightmare, but someone helped him get off the train. He says he sat down in the gravel by the train tracks until emergency workers carried him to a place where a helicopter took him to the hospital.

He survived this second accident in two weeks, but he was not unscathed. Burch suffered a broken collarbone, some broken ribs, a concussion, a neck injury, other possible injuries, and several bruises.

Despite the injuries from two bad accidents in two weeks, Burch says he is thankful for every breath he draws. He says, my heart goes out to the families of those who were killed and to those who were injured worse than I was.

Hes not sure if he was lucky to survive two bad accidents or unlucky to be in two bad accidents, but either way he says he is thankful to be alive.

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