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W.Va. man injured in train wreck

December 17, 2005|By CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -

A man was injured Friday when his Jeep Cherokee was hit by a train, with police and witnesses saying he swerved around a lowered crossing bar after one train had passed without realizing that a second train was approaching from the opposite direction.

George William Frick, who lives on Golf Course Road outside of Martinsburg, was taken to City Hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Deputy Tom Carroll said.

Frick was to be moved to another hospital in Winchester, Va., for continued treatment, Carroll said.

Frick's condition could not be obtained.

The accident happened about 4:30 p.m. on Golf Course Road, at the edge of the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds property.

Jim and Georgia Curtis were on their way home to Kearneysville, W.Va., after going to a store in Martinsburg. They decided to take the back roads home rather than the more heavily traveled W.Va. 9.

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When they pulled their Chrysler PT Cruiser up to the railroad tracks, the Jeep already was stopped ahead of them, they said.

As soon as an eastbound train passed, the driver of the Jeep quickly drove forward and around a lowered crossing bar, the couple said.

After crossing the first set of tracks, the driver hit his brakes, apparently just realizing that a westbound train was bearing down on him. After braking momentarily, he seemed to hit his gas pedal, likely trying to avoid being hit, the couple said.

However, the driver was partially hampered by a crossing bar still lowered on the other side of the tracks, the couple said.

They could see the train, which blew its whistle and had a headlight turned on, coming.

"I started hollering, 'Oh no! No, don't go!'" George Curtis said.

Instead, they watched the driver accelerate.

"I thought maybe he was going to make it," Georgia Curtis said. "I guess he made that leap of faith, and unfortunately, it cost him."

"It was a hell of an explosion," Jim Curtis added.

After the collision, Georgia Curtis immediately called 911 on her cell phone. Her husband tried to call CSX to halt any oncoming trains, but the last digit of an emergency phone number posted on a sign by the tracks was missing.

The couple wanted to help the driver, but was not able to because the train had stopped on the tracks. They were able to see people on the other side of the tracks assist the driver, who was able to stumble away with help, the couple said.

Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Willie Johnson said the driver was talking when police arrived.

While the driver's side of the Jeep looked to be barely scratched, the passenger side was nearly unrecognizable as a Jeep. The back portion was torn away, while the front passenger seat area was crushed inward.

A gray seat lay on the road by the Jeep, while a tire arced into the air, witnesses said, and came to rest 50 or so yards away in a snow-covered field.

The driver of the tow truck called to haul away the Jeep was told to bring a shovel to scoop up all the parts scattered in the area, police said.

Firefighters and medics from the Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department responded.

Police remained at the scene for about two hours.

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