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Ala. first responders rescue teen pinned under train

Helena firefighters had to crawl approximately 50 feet underneath the train to reach one victim


Helena, Alabama Fire Department/Facebook

By Carol Robinson

HELENA, Ala. — Two teens were critically injured Monday afternoon when they were struck by a train while walking on a railroad trestle in Helena.

Authorities said police and firefighters were called about 2:45 p.m. to the Riverwoods subdivision on a report of juveniles struck by a CSX train.

Mayor Brian Puckett, one of the first to arrive on the scene, said two teen girls and two teen boys were walking along the trestle when two of them were hit.

Two others managed to jump out of the way and escape injury.

Puckett said two of the victims were critically injured. One of them was airlifted to Children’s of Alabama and the other was taken by ambulance.

A Helena officer is being treated at a hospital for an injury sustained during the rescue, the mayor said.

Helena Police Chief Brad Flynn said the CSX tracks run parallel with Morgan Road.

“We got there, and the fire department got there, and it was a nightmare scene because you’ve got about a 100-foot embankment at a 45-degree angle,’’ the chief said.

One of the victims hit was a female that had been thrown about halfway down the embankment, Flynn said. Another girl that didn’t get hit was with her friend.

“It was quite a mess,’’ he said. “We had to crawl up about 30 or 40 feet to get to them.”

Helena Fire Chief Pete Valenti said the male victim who was hit was still underneath the train on the trestle when first responders arrived. He said firefighters had to crawl underneath the train for about 50 feet to reach the young victim.

They had no more than 3 feet of headroom. They took a backboard with them and then tied a rope to it to pull the victim back out from underneath the train.

Flynn said the teens were walking on the tracks from the Blackridge subdivision in Hoover to Old Town and Buck Creek in Helena.

The crash was captured on the train’s video surveillance system. “It’ll just break your heart watching it,’’ he said.

“One of them told me they do this all the time, but he said this time they were halfway across the trestle, and he said, ‘We didn’t hear or see the train until it was practically right up on us,’’' Flynn said. “Two of them were able to get out of the way and two of them weren’t.”

The victims are believed to be ages 15 or 16. They are believed to live in Hoover.

Both Flynn and Valenti said they both have been in Helena long enough to remember the 1997 train crash that killed four kids when a CSX freight train hit a car driven by a woman taking her kids to school.

“I was first on the scene of that one and had a little boy die in my arms that morning,’’ Flynn said.

Prior to that crash, two other children were killed on the trestle in Old Town.

“Train tracks are not a place to go hike, they’re not a place to explore,’’ Flynn said. “Things can turn deadly in a minute.”

“These kids, this is the last thing they were thinking could happen,’’ Flynn said.

“We’ve all seen Stand by Me where the train is coming and they barely outrun it,’’ he said. “That’s exactly what happened to these kids, but theirs didn’t have a happy ending.”

“Two kids are fighting for their lives,’’ he said. “and the other two are going to needs some help.”

Flynn said parents need to stress to their kids to stay off the tracks. “It’s private property and if you’re on the tracks, you’re trespassing,’’ he said. “But it’s that way for a reason. Even the ones that weren’t hit, they still had to tumble 30 or 40 feet down an embankment full of rocks and trees.”

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