A woman pushed her granddaughter out of the path of an approaching Norfolk Southern train just before the train hit the pickup truck she had been driving, according to Jacob Sellers, a witness at the scene of the crash in Delaplane Thursday evening.
Sellers said the impact flipped the pickup truck and sent the woman into a ditch next to the train tracks.
The woman was transported to Winchester Medical Center for treatment of life-threatening injuries, said Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for Virginia State Police. The three children who were in the truck – aged 8, 12 and 14 -- were transported to Fauquier Hospital to be checked out. The 8-year-old was treated for a minor injury, Geller said.
Geller reported that a Hyundai Tiburon was traveling south on Winchester Road (U.S. 17) and approaching the railroad crossing near the intersection of Rokeby Road (Va. 623) a little before 6 p.m. on July 18. The crossing's safety arm began lowering and warning lights were activated to indicate a train was coming.
Witnesses say that as the Hyundai began stopping prior to the tracks, it was rear-ended by a Toyota pickup truck. The spokeswoman said the impact of the crash pushed the Hyundai across the railroad tracks to the other side, but the pickup ended up on the tracks and became disabled.
Geller said that with the train approaching, the Toyota's driver, a 58-year-old woman, and her three young passengers got out of the pickup truck safely, but the train was not able to avoid striking the pickup truck. When it hit the pickup, it was shoved off the tracks and struck the woman.
The 24-year-old male driver of the Hyundai was not injured.
The train conductor was not injured and the train remained on the tracks.
Sellers, of Front Royal, was driving home with his mother, Cassandra Huffman, when they saw the accident and ran to help.
“At first we didn’t know where she was,” said Sellers, referring to the driver. “We couldn’t find her. I searched inside the vehicle. Our main concern was that she was under the truck,” which had flipped upside down. “But then I saw an arm in the ditch about 20 feet away.”
Sellers said he stayed with the woman until emergency workers arrived.
“I kept asking, can you hear me?” he said.
Sellers and Huffman said they checked on the woman’s pulse and her breathing.
A third person at the scene, Derek Stephens of Delaplane, said he heard the train hit the truck from his apartment, which is within sight of the crash.
“I grabbed my first aid kit and ran over there,” he said. He put ointment on some of the children’s cuts and bruises and stayed with them, trying to shield them from their grandmother in the ditch.
“They were pretty shaken up,” he said. “They kept asking, why didn’t the train stop?”
Geller said charges are pending as Virginia State Police Trooper T.D. Greene continues to investigate the two separate crashes.
Reach Robin Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org