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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 27, 2008

Two trains crash into car
Survivors anguished after miraculous escape

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — Peter Salerno says it’s a miracle that he and his two daughters survived being hit by two trains on Saturday at a crossing near their Youmans Road home.

 Salerno said that he made his story public after a television news program reported that he had tried to race a train. He said that no father would race a train with his children in the car.

Trains will often slow down and stop at the crossing, effectively blocking his access to town and stranding him at home for hours, he said.

“It’ll just slow down to nothing and stop there. I’ve missed my kids’ ball games. My kids don’t get on the bus on time,” he said. He has called CSX at those times and has been told that train repairs could take hours. When Salerno complained that his mother, who uses a wheelchair, could need emergency services, CSX told him he made the choice to move there, Salerno said.

Sometimes, he said, he must park on the other side of the tracks and carry his groceries home on foot.

The extension from Great View Terrace, which would allow another way out,  is removed from the state budget yearly, Salerno said.

“It just goes back and forth,” he said.

After the trains hit the vehicle, Salerno’s son, who had remained at home, called 911. Rescue workers arrived but were stuck on the other side of the tracks by the stopped trains.

“They were all yelling under the train. They couldn’t get to us,” Salerno said. The trains were moved within 15 minutes, he said. He and his daughters were taken to the hospital. The girls were released, but he stayed longer because of an injury to his leg that has left him with a bruise and a limp, he said.

Salerno said that he looked three times, and only saw one slow train. Worrying that he would be trapped at home, Salerno drove over the track. A second train, going much faster, hit the front of Salerno’s Land Rover.

“That train was right on top of me,” he said. The impact turned the car around twice. Salerno estimated that he had 30 or 40 seconds until the slower train would hit them. His door would not open, and he could not start the vehicle because the engine was missing. He saw that the train would hit the passenger side, where his daughters were sitting. One was in the front seat, the other behind her sister.

Salerno said that he reached into the backseat and grabbed his daughter by her winter coat and hauled her out of her seatbelt to the front on his side. He pulled his other daughter closer to him, he said.

He remembers saying, “I’m so sorry, girls, we’re going to get hit, again.” When the train struck them, he said, “We swung around a few times. There was a large, gaping hole where the [passenger] door used to be.” Had he left his daughter there, she would have been injured, he said. The trio crawled out of the hole and escaped the tracks.

“I definitely didn’t hear a whistle,” Salerno said. “We just didn’t see it. It was just moving so fast. I did not hear it whistle.”

Salerno credits God and his Land Rover for their safety.

“I’d like to thank God. God had his hand on our lives. He gave me the presence of mind to pull my daughter [out of her seat],” Salerno said. As for the Land Rover, he said, “It got hit by two different trains.”

He continued, “We got hit by two trains, and we walked away. It’s a miracle.”

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