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Woman survives being hit by train in East Deer

| Thursday, June 26, 2014, 11:21 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Emergency personnel were at the scene after an elderly East Deer woman was struck by a freight train on Thursday, June 26, 2014, at the Front Street crossing in East Deer.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Emergency personnel transport a female who was struck by a Norfolk Southern train at the Front Street crossing in East Deer on Thursday, June 26, 2014.

An elderly East Deer woman was in a Pittsburgh hospital on Thursday after her arm was struck by a freight train as she tried to run across the railroad tracks before it arrived.

“I thought I could make it,” Shirley Helman, reportedly told East Deer police.

Police said she was walking from the Sheetz gas station, along the 800 block of Freeport Road, to her home at Front Street almost directly across the street. The railroad tracks run perpendicular to the two.

She almost completed the mad dash, but the Norfolk Southern train struck her left arm.

An East Deer ambulance took Helman to UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh where she was initially listed in serious condition.

Mike Dunmire, of the 300 block of Freeport Road, was standing outside the Rainy Day Learning Center in the township's Creighton neighborhood when he heard the train, which was heading toward Pittsburgh.

“A woman with white hair ran across the tracks like she was trying to beat it,” he said. “She's lucky she didn't trip, or the train would've been on top of her.

“I thought she had made it until I saw her white sneakers,” Dunmire said.

Dunmire and another man ran across the street to help.

“She was still holding her debit card,” Dunmire said. “Her head was on the rocks, so I took my T-shirt, folded it up, and put it under her head.”

An East Deer ambulance crew was less than 50 yards away and an A-K Pulsar paramedic responded.

East Deer police Chief John Manchini said witnesses heard the train crew sounding the horn several times before approaching the short access road leading to Front Street.

“She told me she thought she could run across before the train passed,” Manchini said.

“I asked her why she didn't wait. It was only a 10-car train.”

The chief said, “She didn't say much.”

Manchini said he knows of four or five vehicles that pulled into the path of trains along Freeport Road in Creighton in recent years.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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