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Driver loses race with train in Cheswick

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Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012

A Plum man who police said might have been trying to beat a train to the Blockdale Street crossing Tuesday morning came up on the losing end of that battle.

The car was destroyed, but the man driving it, Robert Cutone, 46, wasn't seriously injured, borough police Chief Robert Scott said. Cutone was treated and released from UPMC St. Margaret hospital near Aspinwall, the chief said.

The collision happened shortly before 8:30 a.m.

Officer Cindy Busch said Cutone was traveling out Blockdale to Pittsburgh Street. The two-mile long Norfolk Southern freight train was traveling south at about 25 mph.

There are no gates controlling the crossing. Drivers are supposed to stop before crossing the tracks.

The train hit the passenger side of the car and pushed it between 50 and 100 feet, Busch said.

Although the train's crew blew a whistle, Busch said the driver claimed he didn't hear the train.

"I think he tried to beat the train," Busch told a reporter.

No charges have been filed as the accident remains under investigation. Busch said police will get a look at video footage taken from a camera in the train's engine.

Scott couldn't confirm that Cutone tried to beat the train.

The chief said his understanding of the circumstances was that Cutone simply wasn't paying attention and didn't notice the train approaching.

Cutone couldn't be reached for comment.

The white, late model Mercury Sable appeared to be a company car. It bore an identification sticker on the rear bumper that included a phone number and asked, "How's my driving?"

Three crew members were in the train's engine.

While there was nothing left of the right side of the car's passenger compartment, Cutone had only a cut on a finger, Busch said. He was out of his vehicle and talking on his cell phone when police arrived.

As a precaution, Cutone was driven to the hospital by ambulance to be examined, Busch said.

At first, he didn't want to go, she said.

"He just got hit by a train," Busch said. "I convinced him to go to the hospital."

Staff writer Michael Aubele contributed to this report.

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