"The last thing I remember is, I looked up and I saw the Union Pacific train coming at us," recalls Francisco. "But since I've seen it before, we either bypass it or the train bypasses us, and so, I didn't think anything of it. I didn't get scared. I then, turned back to my magazine to start reading it. [That's] when I heard the loud boom."
Roland, a rescue worker who was not called to the crash site but saw the helicopters and emergency vehicles and thought he could help, raced to the scene. He pulled Francisco out of the wreckage and saved his life.
"I owe him a lot," says Francisco while shaking Roland's hand.
[AD]"There was just blood and chaos, and people in shock, disoriented, cell phones going off, firemen everywhere, deputies everywhere; it was just one tremendous incident," says Roland of the scene.
He continues, "One of the first bodies that was brought out by two fire fighters [was] wrapped in a white sheet. It must've been like five feet from me, where they laid him down. And then, I saw firefighters bringing more bodies and basically, that became the temporary morgue."
Roland says he found two shovels from a fire engine and, with them, created a cross to represent a spiritual symbol.
The trauma is still fresh for both men. And they are outraged that all of the bloodshed and damage may have been caused by text messaging.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the passenger train's engineer sent and received 57 text messages that day, and he sent a text just 22 seconds prior to crashing head-on with the freight train.
"The fact that he was text messaging a few seconds before impact boils my blood," says Roland.
"I got very upset, because I started thinking back about the times I've seen the conductors using their cell phones to make phone calls, and I thought, why is it that people are allowed to use their cell phones to either text message or make personal cell phone calls instead of doing what they should be doing? So I felt angry about it and I also felt sad at the same time," shares a visibly shaken Francisco.
[AD]Still on crutches, Francisco suffered cartilage and ligament damage and a laceration under his knee, cracked ribs, major bruising on his back and scars on his face.
And though he survived, Francisco says he and his family's lives will be affected forever. "It upsets me. If they had asked me, â€˜Would you board the train, but the engineer is going to be text messaging while he operates the train?' I would have said no."