At the end of our amazing adventure in Hue, we were to catch a night train to Hanoi. A train had derailed, though, delaying the entire train line headed north. As a result our train was delayed. It wasn’t until 2:30 in the morning that our train finally arrived. Vietnamese sleeper trains are very clean and pleasant—I have absolutely no complaints. To this day the worst trains I’ve ridden on were in Italy. We were supposed to arrive in Hanoi the next morning, but because of the delays it was going to be evening of the next day.
After a long night and day, our train stopped about 15 minutes outside of Hanoi. We were in the third car from the front. Outside, we could see a car had been severely damaged by a collision, and we quickly discovered that it was from our train. There were five people in the car, not including the driver. They were in a taxi, a family returning home from a wedding. The taxi driver decided to cut over the train tracks, and the car got stuck. Seeing the train coming, the driver bailed from the car, but the family did not have time. Three of them were instantly killed, one was severely injured, and an 11 year old boy was pinned in the car. We could see some of this from our window. Our guide, Phuong, and a former Australian military member of our group, Justin, jumped out to help. People in nearby houses also rushed to help. Train officials jotted down notes on their clipboards, and took photos, but did not get involved. Phuong, Justin, and a few others worked tirelessly to free the boy. They did, and it was another 45 minutes before a cab was flagged down and sent to the hospital. He most likely lost his legs. We were delayed for about two hours. There was absolutely no damage to the train.
It was heart wrenching, and we were all shaken from the experience. It is hard to not feel responsible, in a way, for those deaths, even though it was far beyond my control. It is frustrating to see no ambulance come in response to a huge tragedy like this. It was inspiring to see a community jump in to help, immediately. We were ending our vacation, and were looking forward to sailing in Halong Bay for a few days, before wrapping it up in Hanoi. We did have an incredible time in Vietnam, but I will absolutely always remember that train wreck with sadness and grief.
We are so lucky to have so much help at our disposal with a moment’s notice.