Railroad crossing gate traps driver as train looms: ‘I had no warning’

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SUSSEX COUNTY, Va. – Karen Hamilton never wants to be in the position to see a freight train up close like she did Monday afternoon.

"Too close, way too close, way too close,” she emphasized.

Hamilton was behind the wheel of her F-250 at a stop sign in Stony Creek, where she turned right towards the railroad tracks. She said she looked both ways before proceeding forward, but the gate arms shut down on her truck.

"The gate was coming down on my truck and the train was right there, I had no warning, no nothing,” she said.

Hamilton believes if the warning bell and lights sounded before the arm came down she wouldn't have been in such a predicament. She said the crossing arm was literally between her windshield and her hood with a freight train fast approaching.

"The arm came down right here, cause when I backed up, my antenna bent down and then came back up, but the arm came down, I was that close,” she said.

On the other side of the street Joyce Williams could do nothing but watch.

"I could see her struggling to get her car into reverse,” she said. "It was very scary.”

"I tried putting it in reverse and I put it in park, so then I panicked and got it in reverse and backed up,” Hamilton said.

Williams agreed with Hamilton that the warning bells and lights should come on well before the arm comes down.

"I just don't think there was enough warning,” Williams said.

While it was a close call Hamilton is glad it wasn’t worse and didn’t happen to anyone else.

"What if it was an older person, what if it was a younger person, just with his driver’s license,” Hamilton mused.

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