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Amtrak’s solution for elderly sick passengers: Drop dead

June 29, 2007
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Mr. Sims, 65, just retired, and diabetic, took the train from St. Louis bound for Los Angeles. A few miles outside Williams, Arizona, there was a problem.

Amtrak crew presumed Mr. Sims was drunk and unruly. His family says he was going into diabetic shock. Amtrak has their policy. This isn’t an airplane, after all. You can open the doors and put someone off.

The Amtrak crew put Mr. Sims off: at a railroad crossing, not a station, five miles from Williams, Arizona, two miles from any road. No running water is available in the area, and the altitude is an unwelcoming 8,000 feet.

Mr. Sims was dehydrated and disoriented when sheriff’s deputies found him four days later, two miles from where he was dropped off. Apparently he had fled into some woods in the meantime, abandoning his luggage and medication. By then, he’d been a missing person for four days, and his family had been in contact with law enforcement and Amtrak, and clarified Mr. Sims’s condition.

For some public-private policy makers, issues of life, death, and ethics can never be too obvious. Why did the conductor not take Mr. Sims five more miles to Williams and leave him in the Sheriff’s custody? Amtrak isn’t commenting on this as yet.

I hate it when I have to cheer on the ACLU, but I expect that will be forthcoming. All I can infer for now as to Amtrak’s institutional attitude is, don’t get on a train old, alone, or sick. But if you do, they’ll cope. In other words, step outside and drop dead.

  1. June 29, 2007 10:08 am

    Grrr. Do you suppose Amtrac refunded his ticket? Maybe they charged him extra for the inconvenience to the other passengers.

    I found this under their policy for passengers:

    “Amtrak employees or other authorized carrier representatives may remove such a passenger from the train at any inhabited place, as necessary under the circumstances, for any of the above reasons.”

    I wonder how they define “inhabited”. Maybe some hoboes live nearby.

  2. June 29, 2007 10:14 am

    No, just “800,000 acres of beautiful pines,” according to Lt. Graham of the sheriff’s department.

  3. scribbles2day permalink
    July 9, 2007 12:18 am

    “Drop Dead!?”
    (Man lowers pipe. “Did she say, ‘Drop dead’?”)
    (“I’m afraid so, sir.”)
    (“Now, that isn’t -proper- journalism. What the devil is she thinking anyway? ‘Drop dead.’ Hmph! Sounds like the article was carefully formulated around that phrase so she could use it as a punch line.”)
    (“I’m afraid so, sir. It wasn’t in the original article.”)
    (“Keep searching the blog…”)

  4. scribbles2day permalink
    July 11, 2007 1:03 am

    Bet you didn’t know scribbles had an evil twin!? And I’m with you, scribbles! Drop Dead!?

  5. July 11, 2007 1:48 pm

    Ah, the evil twin explains why a winsome cat shows up sounding like the Men in Black.

    But you’re right, Scribbles. They never said, “Drop dead.” I should have attributed their actions to something more like, “Please, sir, step outside and enjoy the pines. They’re lovely in the dead of night. There’s a town with water five miles up the road. Sorry there is no one to transport your luggage. Have a nice day.”

  6. scribbles2day permalink
    July 11, 2007 6:16 pm

    Yes, and there’s an abandoned train water tower three miles that way. If you hurry you might live!

    Now see that? You’re creative! You’re funny! I’m enjoying it!

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