December 22, 2014

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Train hits car; teen dies

Car shoved nearly half a mile; passenger, 25, flown to hospital

HUNTINGTON TWP. — Tragic timing at a Baker Road railroad crossing Saturday led to a car being broadsided by a train and dragged almost a half-mile, killing the car’s driver and seriously injuring a passenger, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers said.
Amanda White, 18, of New London, was pronounced dead at the scene, while her passenger — Todd Denes, 25, of Wellington — still was being evaluated at a Cleveland hospital late Saturday, troopers and a hospital spokeswoman said.
Wellington firefighters and Highway Patrol troopers responded to the Baker Road railroad crossing in Huntington Township — between state Routes 58 and 511, south of Stewart Road — about 6:30 p.m., troopers said.
White was driving a 1997 Ford Escort south on Baker Road when it crossed the railroad tracks at the precise moment a westbound train was crossing, Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul March said.
Stop signs are posted on both sides of the Baker Road railroad crossing, and crossing signs are painted on the pavement. However, there are no flashing lights or crossing gates to warn cars of passing trains.
It is unknown whether White stopped before crossing the tracks, March said.
“There were no skid marks before the crossing,” March said, adding that the incident is still under investigation.
The train struck the car on the driver’s side and pushed it about 2,000 feet before stopping with the car still on the tracks, March said.
Wellington Fire Chief Robert Walker said the train’s stopping point briefly hampered rescue efforts because firefighters had trouble getting to the area. Emergency crews were eventually able to reach the crash scene by way of a dirt road that cut through 150 feet of a corn field on Stewart Road.
It took firefighters about 15 to 20 minutes to free Denes, Walker said.
“It was just a lengthy process to get back there,” Walker said.
Once freed, Denes was briefly placed in an ambulance before being flown from the scene by helicopter. He was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
Hours after the crash and after the victims were taken away, the car was still stuck at the tracks in front of the train — work crews had to use a front-end loader to remove it.
Area residents who heard the crash and were there just before emergency crews arrived described a haunting scene.
“I actually saw that car go down the road — pretty fast — right before the crash,” said Heath Leiby, who was at his girlfriend’s Baker Road home Saturday. “The next thing you know, we hear the train whistle blow, and then, ‘Wham!’
“There was a crunching sound, then the sound of the train wheels locking up,” Leiby said.
A 19-year-old Wellington man — who declined to give his name — said he and his mother were also on scene just before firefighters arrived. They walked nearly a half-mile to the car, where Denes was still inside and barely conscious, he said.
“He was beat up pretty bad,” the man said. “I just feel sick. It was bad. The car was destroyed.”
Lorain County Coroner Paul Matus said he’s still investigating the incident, but he suspected that White died of severe trauma to the head and body.
The tracks are owned by Wheeling Lake Erie Railroad. A railroad employee on scene declined to comment.
Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.

071507traincar.jpgCarl Sullenberger / Chronicle
People stand near the site where a train dragged a car several hundred feet in Huntington Township on Saturday.
Video coverage
Footage from the crash scene.