Jani-King Franchisee Called a Hero
Calvin Rhodes, a Jani-King
franchisee from the Chicago region, was on his way to one of his
accounts on Friday, June 19 when he found himself in the middle
of an emergency. Rhodes was stopped in his car at a train
crossing when a 114-car freight train toting 78 cars of ethanol
derailed in front of him. The derailment triggered a gigantic
orange explosion that could be seen for miles.
Other witnesses at
the scene described the terrifying chain of events. ‘It was
just normal, sitting there watching the train go by. I didn’t
think anything was wrong,’ said Colleen Mork. ‘Then the
big tanker cars came by, and they would bounce. It was almost
like hitting a pothole. Each one seemed to bounce harder or
worse. You could hear it, even being in the third car back with
the windows shut and the air conditioning going. Then they
started bunching into each other. Then you could see sparks, and
then they started hitting each other harder and started buckling
Mork described the ensuing explosion as a ‘big
inferno of fire.’ ‘I knew some cars were turning around.
I thought of backing up, but there was a car behind me turning
around. The people in front of me got out of their cars and
started to run. ‘I got out too and started to run. That’s
when I hurt my leg.’
What happened next was a selfless act of
heroism. ‘There was this one man. He was further ahead of me,
and he came back. He said, ‘Lady. You’ve got to run.’
I told him I couldn’t because my leg was really hurting at
that time. So he took my hand.
‘I was so thankful.’
man was Jani-King’s franchisee, Calvin Rhodes. His was the
first car in line leading up to the railroad tracks.
his 17-year-old nephew and a co-worker in his van with him. He
saw the railroad ties coming loose. Then some of the train cars
toppled up to 30 feet in the air and those behind buckled.
‘Once the tanker exploded, I knew then it was time to get out
of the van,’ Rhodes said. ‘The heat was so intense. We
could feel the heat on the back of our heads. It was surreal,
like a movie. I was in shock.’
Rhodes said he ran about 50
yards, turned around and gave thought to retrieving his van with
all of his work equipment still inside.
‘Then I saw an
elderly lady getting out of her car, and I ran back and got her.
I took her by the hand, and we started walking back.’
received second-degree burns to his left arm and Mork’s
‘If it was my wife or my mother, I hope
anybody else would do the same thing,’ he said. A fireman
wrapped Rhodes’ arm at the scene, and he did not go to the
hospital. Rhodes’ two passengers also suffered second-degree
burns on the backs of their arms and heads while running from the
‘We were on the right side of the tracks tonight,’
Rhodes said Friday after the crash. ‘I get to go home to my
family. Some people won’t be able to go home