Two Years Later: Casselton Derailment Still Fresh for First Responders

It’s the two year anniversary of the Casselton train derailment.

First responders, along with Senator Heidi Heitkamp, came together to reflect.

The Casselton Ambulance crew consists of all volunteers.

Volunteers who say it wasn’t about their efforts on the day of the derailment, but the town of Casselton instead.

On December 30th 2013, the town of Casselton was rocked by a disaster that no one saw coming.

A train carrying crude oil derailed and forced the city’s residents out of their homes.

Mary Kempel was one of the first responders on scene. She says she remembers the derailment like it was yesterday.

‘I thought wow what’s going on, and I turned around and looked and I saw a tremendous black cloud and fire,” said Kempel.

Executive Director Ken Habiger is one of Casselton’s longest serving ambulance volunteers. He says when he got the call; any concern for himself went out the door.

“Safety; You think of the safety of the people involved if there’s anyone who has to be rescued, that’s primary in your mind. You really don’t think about yourself,” said  Habiger.

“It’s on these railroad tracks right here that the city of the Casselton can say it survived one of the most catastrophic events yet.”

Senator Heidi Heitkamp was also in Casselton to honor the anniversary, and recognize Ken for his years of volunteer service.

“I think about the people through the years that were with us and no longer with us. It took a lot of people to build an ambulance service, and keep it going,” said Habiger.

Senator Heitkamp says the volunteer efforts from ambulance crews like Casselton is what keeps rural America going.

“The ability to keep rural America viable and open depends exactly on keeping first responders available and first responders trained,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

In the aftermath of the disaster, Casselton now has volunteer crews who work side by side with paid paramedics in what they hope becomes the future of rural emergency medical services.

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