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New details emerge on car-train crash

Oct. 19, 2009

New details in a Wauwatosa police report show just how lucky the Milwaukee woman whose vehicle was struck by an oncoming train Oct. 9 was that she and her children walked away from the accident unharmed.

The CP Rail engineer told officers that the 4,075-foot long train had 74 loaded cars that provided an impact of 8,492 tons when it clipped the front of Tonya Swift's Chrysler Pacifica at 70th and State streets.

Swift, 29, stopped her vehicle past the white line by the traffic control signal about 3:30 p.m. She said she saw the crossing warning signals but thought she was far enough away from the tracks. Then the crossing gate came down and struck her car.

She said tried to back up, but couldn't move and could only watch the train approach and strike the left corner of her vehicle pushing it sideways into the crossing gate standards.

However, witnesses tell a slightly different story. The train engineer and the driver of the car behind Swift said there was room and time to back up, but that Swift made no attempt to reverse. The gate came down on the rear of the vehicle because it was so close to the tracks.

Gate arms weigh about 10 pounds and are designed to break if pushed, the engineer said. An inspection of the crossing equipment and railroad tracks showed no problems.

Swift was cited for driving around a railroad crossing gate. Her vehicle was severely damaged, but she and her two children, ages 7 and 6 months, were not harmed.

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