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Woman driver survives train-car collision

June 30, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

MAUGANSVILLE - A train engine slammed into a car as it was crossing railroad tracks on Shawley Drive Sunday afternoon, but the driver miraculously did not suffer severe injuries.

Jennifer Lucas, 26, of 10106 Melody Lane in Hagerstown, was taken to Washington County Hospital, where she was in good condition Sunday night.

Lucas' red 1990 Nissan Sentra was driving west on Shawley Drive west of Interstate 81 at 3:20 p.m. when a southbound two-unit Conrail train smashed into the passenger side, according to Washington County sheriff's deputies.

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The car rolled several times and came to a rest on its side in a yard next to the tracks. The train managed to stop about 500 feet away.

The train's engineer, who would not identify himself, declined to comment.

Dale Holmes, who watched the entire drama unfold from his back porch, said neither the car nor the train were moving very fast. But the road is winding and the railroad crossing has nothing more than signs to warn oncoming drivers.

"She actually slowed down going up the hill and I thought she was going to stop," he said. "She was gradually slowing down and just hit the train. He was blowing the horn all the way."

Holmes' son, Nathan, said he was working on his car when he heard shattering glass. He said it did not sound much different from a normal car accident.

"That train wasn't going fast at all," he said. "It wasn't real loud like some of the wrecks."

Nathan Holmes called 911 while his father rushed to the car. He said the woman was still conscious and shaken up. He said he told her to turn off the ignition and then talked to her as he steadied the car.

Rescue workers from the Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. cut away the roof of the car and removed her.

Capt. Chris Gelwicks said the woman was wearing her seat belt. If she had not been, he said she likely would have been thrown through the windshield.

"It's amazing," he said. "She's very lucky. But today just wasn't her day. We were expecting a lot worse."

Train accidents involving cars are fairly rare, but Gelwicks said they do happen from time to time - particularly at crossings that are not well-marked.

"They don't have lights or cross bars over here," he said. "It's pretty much the driver's decision. They need to look and watch both ways."

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