A car apparently rear-ended at a railroad crossing and pushed into the side of a moving freight train was dragged for four miles as its shrieking driver frantically tried to call for help on her cellular phone.
“Mom! Mom! I need help,” 20-year-old Amber Scott screamed into the phone Monday. But the battery was cutting in and out, and she couldn’t be sure if she was talking to her mother or the answering machine.
She called 911 and screamed: “I’m being dragged . . . by a train! Oh, please help!” But, unsure whether she was being understood over the roar of the Conrail freight train going 30 mph, Scott hunkered down in her seat, afraid the car might roll over.
“I just waited,” she said Tuesday. “I prayed the whole time.”
Scott’s car was dragged for seven terrifying minutes before it apparently hit a railroad sign and was knocked loose from the train. She suffered little more than a concussion, a sore back and bumps and bruises.
“I feel like it was a miracle,” she said.
Sheriff’s Maj. Ron Richardson said: “She was very, very lucky.”
Scott had been headed to classes at Ball State University in Muncie, in foggy conditions, when she was apparently hit by a pickup truck and pushed under a middle car of the train. Conrail spokesman Ron Hildebrand said the crew couldn’t see her and didn’t know a car had become trapped.
“We have no way of seeing these things. When our engineer went by, the car was sitting there” at the crossing, Hildebrand said from the rail company’s offices in Philadelphia. “She’s really lucky she wasn’t seriously injured.”
Deputies said the pickup’s driver, Ross K. Schroeder, 25, told them that there had been a car in front of him at the crossing and that it had disappeared.
He was cited for having no insurance.
Scott said she thought briefly about trying to roll out her passenger-side door but decided against it when she saw how fast the train was going.
When she dialed 911, police dispatchers could hear a woman screaming for help and the sound of a train constantly in the background, Sheriff Terry Richwine said.
A partial transcript:
Scott: I need help.
Dispatcher: Where at?
Scott: I can’t hardly hear you. Can you yell? I need help!
Dispatcher: Where are you?
Scott: Some guy has hit me. And I’m being dragged by a . . . by a train. Oh, please help!
Dispatcher: Somebody’s on the way.
Scott: What? I can’t hear you!
Dispatcher: Are you in a car, ma’am?
Scott: I can’t hear you!
Two 17-year-old boys who knew Scott from high school heard the commotion from the wreck and followed the trail of debris, eventually finding a bleeding Scott standing near her mangled car.
“It looked like the person that was in it should have been dead,” said one of the teenagers, Mike Imel.
They called Scott’s mother, who immediately went to find her daughter.
“You know there had to be arms around her,” Patricia Scott said. “There has to be a plan.”